Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Time Goes By Pt. 3

January 25, 2020

After a few reluctant mouthfuls of breakfast, Mariel looked back up at the twins. Just in their happy, supportive presence, she was starting to feel more like herself. Her confidence and sanity were slowly regenerating and she found herself even smiling a bit.

“I truly am sorry that to interrupt your vacations,” Mariel said. “Where did the two of you go? Back home?”

“I went back to my order,” Dimitri said. “It was good to see some old friends and Mistress Callen.”

Mariel looked confused. “You didn’t go together?” she asked. The twins had been inseparable for much of their lives so any separation was curious. Perhaps both of them had gained more faith in Dina’s ability to control her curse.

“We didn’t,” Dina said, tearing a sausage in half with her teeth. “Fern and I went camping in Thorncatch forest.”

Mariel smiled. “You and Fern?” she asked. “Really?”

“Yes,” Dina said with a smile. “We finally decided to give it a shot.”

“It’s about time,” Mariel said. “It feels like the two of you first kissed ages ago. Did you enjoy yourselves?” Mariel was suddenly overjoyed. The young druid and werewolf had been making eyes at each other since they had met and Mariel had hoped something would spark. She had remained neutral but she had hoped desperately. She was also impressed that Dimitri had not stood in their way.

Dina nodded. “You know that Fern is hard to read but I think we both had a really good time,” she said. “It’s really nice to just get lost for a while, you know?”

Mariel blushed slightly and nodded. “I think I catch your meaning,” she said. “Would you two mind if I went back upstairs to clean myself up before everybody else arrives?”

Dimitri nodded. “I think we can hold down the fort until you feel that you’re ready,” he said.

“I never put much stock in being clean,” Dina said. “But do what makes you happy.”

Mariel almost laughed. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be right back down.” She stood up and put a few silver on the table before the twins could try to pay for her. She still had her dignity. She hurried up the steps. She had not expected her friends to arrive so soon but she was so grateful for the support. The six of them had been through a lot together and it felt good to have them at her back again. Especially at a time where she had completely lost her footing.

She came back downstairs later after bathing and reapplying her makeup. She had her bag full of magical tools and weapons at the ready, attached to her waist with a sash belt. Just making the change made her feel ready for action again. There was still a tension running through her but she felt less wobbly. She would confront this head-on with her friends like they had confronted so many monsters and villains. She had turned a demon to stone, she could do this. She could hold it together.

When she arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the twins were nowhere in sight but her eyes were drawn to the source of whoever was playing a hurdy gurdy near the fire. It was Asher Woodhome, of course. Asher was a world-famous traveling bard who had somehow stumbled into fame by accident. He was more focused on making and understanding music and its power. He was also the only other member of their party who was as fashion-forward and put together as Mariel. Most who met him thought he was self-centered but he was actually just distracted and overly thoughtful.

Sitting on the floor and meditating near Asher was Luther Stonestill. The old dwarf had left home at a young age and, according to him, had led a brutal and self-centered period in his life. He had joined a monastery to atone and had become a centered yet passionate monk whose whole body was a weapon. And yet, he just as often used his words to diffuse tense situations. He was slow to violence but quick to end violence when it began. He had become the de facto leader of their group and it was he who had called everyone together once again. She was glad to see him.

Mariel sat in a chair across from Asher and next to Luther. Asher stopped playing with a smile and a nod. Luther spoke without opening his eyes.

“Are you ready to investigate?” Luther asked, absolutely calm.

“I am,” Mariel said. “Shall we?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Asher said, slinging his instrument over his back.

“The children are all outside,” Luther said.

“Let’s go gather them then,” Mariel said. “One way or another, we are figuring this out.”

Time Goes By Pt. 2

January 18, 2020

Mariel spent the following night in a fitful half-sleep, tossing and turning and getting up to pace and drink now and again. She knew it was not healthy but she was also not really in her right mind and wanted to be unconscious. She eventually did pass out in those achingly quiet hours before the dawn. Her mind had still been racing with possibilities but it had just shut down as she blacked out. Her dreams were full of faded scraps of memories of her parents. She woke back up in the late morning and everything was too loud and too bright even though the curtains were drawn.

She stumbled out of bed and nearly fell down, her legs wobbling and her head spinning. She had no idea if she was still drunk or it was sleep deprivation. It may have been both. She managed to keep standing and moved to her dresser where she drank directly from a pitcher of water. She rummaged in the dresser for something to wear. She got dressed in the streaks of morning light streaking from the edges of the closed curtains. She ran fingers through those crimson red locks and then slipped on the pair of flats that she usually only reserved for dungeons and battlefields. She was too unsteady for heels.

She stepped out into the hallway and headed for the stairs. She knew she had to at least attempt to eat something. As she descended the stairs, she heard the familiar chatter of the taproom, something she had gotten used to the world over. She put on a brave face, trying to make her expression pleasant but unreadable. She concentrated on changing her gait into more of a glide to cover up her nerves. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw that two of the raucous voices she was hearing belonged to her friends.

Sitting at a table with sizable breakfasts were the twins Dina and Dimitri Briarhaven. They were collectively known as The Beast and The Blade. The two had been separated at a very young age. The more reserved Dimitri had gone on to take vows as a paladin of Lathander. Dina had been inadvertently saved from kidnappers by a pack of werewolves. In the attack, she had become a werewolf herself and barely escaped into the wilderness. It was many years later when the twins had been reunited. Dimitri used the powers he gained from his faith to help control his sister’s inner beast and she, in turn, had helped him loosen up. They became a great team together.

The two suddenly turned almost in unison to look at Mariel. She saw a brief hesitation in their eyes that showed concern before they smiled again. She realized at that moment that she had not only forgotten to put on her makeup that morning, she had also forgotten to take it off the night before. It was obviously no great sin but it was not like Mariel at all. Even in the midst of battle, she was put together.

“Quite a posh place you’ve found, Mariel,” Dina said with a wicked smile.

“She’s always held that particular skill,” Dimitri said. “Can we interest you in some breakfast?”

“I suppose I should,” Mariel said. “It’s honestly been a rough morning so far.”

Dina stood to give her a hug and Dimitri stood to take her hand and help her into a chair.

“We have fruit, cheese, and bread for you,” Dimitri said. “We can take things slowly.”

Mariel nodded and started to use a fork to put food in her mouth. She chewed mechanically and swallowed without really tasting anything. The twins tried not to stare at her.

“I’m sorry for interrupting your vacation,” Mariel said. “I didn’t mean to.”

Dina waved her hand as if she was blowing the words out of the air like smoke. “I was getting bored anyway,” she said.

Dimitri shrugged. “When Luther contacted us, he gave us a choice,” he said. “We chose to come. This is important and beside that, it seems like this is an interesting turn of events.”

Mariel nodded. “To say the least,” she said. “Everybody didn’t come did they?”

“Luther and Asher haven’t arrived yet,” Dina said. “Fern is outside.”

“Outside?” Mariel asked and looked concerned. “What is she doing outside?”

“Hanging out?” Dina said with a shrug, shoving a sausage into her mouth.

“She has too many ‘passengers’ and she’s filthier than usual,” Dimitri said.

“Oh,” Mariel said and went back to eating. Fern was a druid the team had found in a cave and she was much more used to the outdoors. She often had rats, insects, and snakes crawling in and out of her robes and often had enough dirt caked on her skin to actually grow plants out of. She was both touched and guilty that her friends were all arriving. She had not meant to ruin their good time but she was grateful to have the support. This mystery could mean nothing but could it could be the most important thing to ever happen.

Time Goes By

January 11, 2020

Mariel was walking down the streets of Carrena, every few steps she spun her parasol on her shoulder. It was a sunny day and she had a new dress and she was on vacation from adventuring. The rest of the team had scattered to the winds so Mariel was on her own. A lot of them had gone back to visit their families and touch base with their lives outside of fighting monsters and gathering treasure. Mariel had no family anymore. She was the tragic backstory type of adventurer. Her parents were magical researchers but had meddled with something wrong and they had detonated the tower they had lived in. Mariel had been flung across town and it was a miracle that she had survived at such a young age. One of her pointy ears had been singed off permanently which led to a lifetime of artfully arranged long hair.

Fifty years had passed quickly since they were just a blink of an eye for a young elf. Still, she could barely remember her parents’ faces and it had been a long time since she had been anywhere remotely near her home in the Bremid Empire. She had chosen instead to visit Carrena. She had grown up far from cities in her small town and she had gotten a taste for city life and especially city fashion while on adventures with her new family. They had been in Carrena the previous year battling a death cult down in the sewers. Not the best memories but when they had emerged from the blood and fouled water, the colors in the city had been so bright. They had hit several pubs in the city and had caroused for two straight nights on the King’s coin.

She had bought a new dress the morning they had left and she promised herself that she would return. Now she had paid for a week at the Deer’s Head and she was just having fun shopping and exploring the city. There were no dangers to confront and she was enjoying having some time to herself. She had spent her day reading a romance story by the famous Fountains of Umberlee’s Daughters. It had been so relaxing but now she was starting to get hungry again and there were no more snacks in her bag of colding. She also thought she could do with a glass or two of black wine. She was looking forward to the warmth of a good fire and a luxurious silk sleeping gown.

That’s when she saw it. It was a teddy bear lying in the gutter, leaned up against the curb like he had just been taking a little rest. He had certainly seen better days. He was tattered and burned as if the bear had been set on fire, flung against a wall, and then fallen into a bucket of water and stayed there for a while. The thing was, Mariel knew the poor gentleman’s name and she found herself whispering it.

“Mullo,” she muttered and a shiver ran up her spine.

She took her parasol off of her shoulder and held in front of her. She whispered a few words and she felt magic surge into the parasol. She looked through the thin silk which was her version of the Detect Magic spell. Through the veil of her parasol, the bear was lit up like a bonfire. The thing was radiating vast amounts of magic. The magic looked different from anything she had ever seen before. Every so often it would distort and then flicker as if it was not fully there. She reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of gloves and picked the bear up. Without a doubt it was Mullo. How had he gotten clear across the world? Was it the magic from that night?

She had not remembered when she had started walking again. She had not remembered when she had started crying. She had put the parasol away in her bag but she was still clutching Mullo. She walked through the taproom of The Wolf Moon and up to her room. She set Mullo down on the dresser and reached into the top drawer for her sending stone.
She didn’t think, she just poured her will into it and called out two countries over and deep under the earth.

“Luther,” she called out in her mind. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“Mariel?” Luther’s voice sounded in her head. “It’s no bother. You sound distressed.”

“I found Mullo,” she said, trying to slow her breathing.

“Who’s Mullo?” Luther asked. The dwarf sounded understandably confused.

“My childhood teddy bear,” Mariel said. “Magic brought him here. Maybe…”

“Maybe you could find them?” Luther asked. The question was patronizing or mocking but filled with the cautious hope that Mariel had not yet allowed herself.

“Maybe,” Mariel said. “What do I do?”

“Stay put,” Luther said. “Find out what you can while I assemble the team. We’ll be there soon.”

“I don’t want to interrupt their vacation,” Mariel said.

“This is important to you,” Luther said. “We’re a family. It’s important to us too. You’ll see.”

“Thank you, Luther,” Mariel said softly.

“No problem,” he said. “See you soon.”

The Christmas Killer

January 4, 2020

Marla took a deep drag of her cigarette and coughed before tossing it to the pavement and stamping it out. She had barely stumbled out of bed just thirty minutes before. It was New Year’s Day and the party had been out of control the night before. She had lost count of how many glasses of egg nog she had had and that was long before the champagne even showed up. She had thrown on some shades in order to hide bloodshot eyes and had done the best she could with her hair and makeup. An investigative reporter had to look professional. Apparently, there were no days off for a true professional even though she wanted to spend the day hovering near her toilet. Ah well.

The paper had not sent over a photographer which was either an oversight or a budget cutback. The Spotlight was always being overshadowed by the Tribune and television so things were getting a little tight back at the office. The accounting department was getting increasingly testy. So, Marla was surreptitiously snapping pictures with her cell phone from behind the police tape. It looked grim. Cops at crime scenes always looked grim but this one looked particularly bad. Everybody was walking around either ashen-faced or pissed. Not a single cop was lax in their duties guarding the crime scene. Marla suspected she knew what the cause of it all was.

It was the Christmas Killer. It had been more than a week since the killings had begun. On Christmas Eve, a young woman had been found dead in an alleyway. She had been stabbed in the carotid artery and had bled out. It had not been pretty. What was curious is that the deed had been done with a simple candy cane. It had been sharpened to a point and driven deep. It had certainly put an extra chill in the air just before Christmas. The next day there was a very similar killer only this time the victim was male and the target was their femoral artery. Christmas Day in broad daylight. Every day since then there had been another bloody killing, all done with the same sharpened sweet. It was a baffling serial killer case because there did not seem to be a pattern with the victims.

So far, Marla had been at every crime scene but she had gotten very few details. After the first two kills, the cops had done well clamping down on any information they had. Though, the killings kept happening so they must not have had much of an idea yet either. It was frightening that a killer like that could work with impunity in a big city. It made anybody a target. It was a fact that Marla knew all too well. She had made a point of never being alone in the open wherever she went. She moved through crowds and attended parties. Safety in numbers had been her hope as it had been the hope of a lot of people during the last week.

Marla spotted a familiar face near the police tape so she headed in that direction. She had already tried flagging down an officer or detective for a comment. None of them would comment but she had not really expected them to. At one point, like at other crime scenes, she had shouted at them the question of whether it had been the Christmas Killer. The flinch she had seen in one officer had told her all she had needed to know. She moved over toward Rick Friedman who looked almost as hungover as she did.

“Hey Rick,” Marla said. “What’s a private investigator like you doing here? Can’t you see the professionals are already on the case?” She smirked, loving to tease even her closest friends.

Rick sighed. “Good morning, Marla,” he said. “You know very well that I’m a professional. I’m at least as good at sniffing out the facts as you are.”

“Only too true,” Marla said. “I’ll give the devil his due but seriously what are you doing here? I wouldn’t peg you as a rubbernecker.”

“I’m here for the same reason as you and the cops are here,” Rick said. “I want to help figure out who keeps doing this.”

Marla’s eyebrows went up. “You had the same hunch that I did, huh?” she asked. “The Christmas Killer strikes again.”

“I did,” Rick said. “Two of the families have hired me to assist with the investigation.”

“The cops must not be happy with that,” Marla said. “You’re making as many friends as I am.”

“No,” Rick said. “They’re not going to be happy that I’m snooping around but maybe I can see something if I look from an outside angle. Which brings me to why I’m glad that I ran into you.”

Marla smiled. “Aw shucks,” she said. “Why are you glad to see me?”

“I have a proposal for you, Marla,” Rick said.

Marla laughed softly. “I’ve already been married, Rick,” she said. “It didn’t work out.”

Rick smiled. “No,” he said. “I suggest a team-up. You and me. We try to figure some stuff out.”

“Are you for real?” Marla asked.

“I am,” Rick said. “However, I have one caveat.”

“Only one?” Marla asked. “Brave man.”

“Whatever you get, you keep out of the paper until the guy is caught,” Rick said.

“Deal,” Marla said. “For an exclusive, I can stay quiet for a little while but we should really get to work.”

“Agreed,” Rick said.

Mindcrash Pt. 3

December 21, 2019

May and Dylan questioned the crowd surrounding the crime scene, most of them had only come to gawk when the security barrier had been erected. One of them pointed toward a nearby house and said that they had been alerted by the citizen in the house. May and Dylan dispersed the crowd after scanning them to keep a record of who had been there. They headed to the threshold of the house. When they got to the door, a tall and gaunt form stepped close to the door. May looked up at the man who had coal-black eyes and fought not to shudder. Vampire Town was creepy.

“Greetings, Detectives,” the man said. “I am Grimm. I am, so to speak, the leader here and I thought I might check in.”

May held up her badge and scanned Grimm. Her badged chirped and the display popped up. “Grimm Harrow. Councilman and de facto mayor of Vampire Town,” May said. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Detective May Collins and this is Detective Dylan Rider.”

“I’ve actually met Mr. Rider before,” Grimm said. “It’s nice to see you again although the circumstances are not ideal.”

“We’re sorry that this happened on your doorstep,” Dylan said. The council did not really rule with iron fists but people deferred to them in times of crisis. They also acted as arbitrators in conflicts.

“Was it one of ours?” Grimm asked, his eyes narrowing slightly. “One of mine?”

May looked around to make sure they did not have any eavesdroppers. “Our technician, Cirra, was able to identify the remains as somebody from the Gamezone.”

Grimm’s eyebrows rose. “So far abroad?” He asked. “So strange. This might be a deep mystery. We have not had many deaths in the Lost Lands so far.”

May nodded. “Yes, well, if you’ll excuse us, Councilman, we were just about to question a witness,” she said.

Grimm looked at the door. “It might be better if I accompany you,” he said. “My constituents are very theatrical but many are actually quite shy.”

May and Dylan shared a look and Dylan shrugged. May sighed. “It might be a really good idea, I guess,” Dylan said.

“Alright,” May said. “Let’s go.” She turned and knocked on the door. Nobody answered it, it simply slowly opened. Grimm made a gesture for them to go first and May cautiously stepped into the house.

The house was extremely dark, like something out of the old horror movies. Almost every surface was textured like old, rotting wood. There were huge cobwebs absolutely swarming with spiders. Every so often, a bat flapped from somewhere in the darkness to somewhere else in the darkness letting out a shriek. May flinched every time a bat made a noise and her skin crawled when she saw the spiders. She knew that none of it was real. There was no such thing as actual animals in the Lost Lands. The spiders and bats were probably elaborate AI programs or possibly just well-programmed decorative effects.

“You don’t really like it here, do you, Detective?” Grimm asked.

May shrugged. “I’m not a fan of horror,” she said. “No offense.”

Grimm laughed and the sound of it was chilling but charming. “It’s quite alright, Detective,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.”

“Who lives here?” Dylan asked. He reached back and touched the sword on his back almost by instinct. May checked her own sidearm just in case.

“Morgan Le Mark,” Grimm said. “She’s rather dramatic as you may have noticed.”

A silken voice rang out from the next room. “Mayor Harrow,” the voice said. “Who have you brought into my abode?”

Grimm called out. “Morgan,” he said. “These detectives mean no harm. May we speak to you?”

“You may enter,” Morgan said.

They stepped into the room and there was Morgan standing in front of a roaring fireplace. She was pale and tall and she was wearing a black dress and she was draped with a black silk shawl. She smiled and there were actual fangs glinting in the firelight. May shuddered.

“Relax, Detectives,” Morgan said. “You will come to no harm in my home.” Her voice held the hints of some sort of European accent. She was a bit cliche but many stuck in the Lost Lands ended up that way. When you could be whatever you wanted for an eternity, some embraced their fondest dream.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 4

November 16, 2019

“A Goddess of Light?!” Westcott asked. “But there is no God but Leotas.” This was well known and spread by the churches in Sunwood before Deputy Westcott was born. Leotas was a kind and simple god, preaching love and understanding.

“There is no such god,” the right Sister said. “Leotas is a lie meant to keep the world passive.”

“The lie of Leotas keeps your kind from the truth,” the left Sister said. “the truth that the true gods went away a long time ago.”

“Went away?” Afa asked. “Maybe you should expand on that. We’re completely in the dark here. Let’s have us some storytime and explain some things. Please.”

The two sisters looked at each other and then nodded. The left Sister spoke up. “In the dark, indeed, Afa. The world slept in darkness until the gods arose. Seven shining gods who brought life, shape, and happiness to the world. Genii, the goddess of light. Callebus, the god of knowledge. Ori, the goddess of nature. Cherbus, the god of fortune. Honus, the goddess of magic. Clairen, the goddess of life. Nepta, the goddess of justice. The seven championed the people and fostered civilization. Life was good.”

The right Sister took her turn. “But all was not completely bright and good. There were also evil gods who were bent on the destruction and domination of mankind. They appeared uncalled for and wreaked havoc on the world. Luckily, these gods did not know how to work together. They worked at cross-purposes but their chaotic efforts brought the world to the brink of oblivion on many occasions. Finally, the seven had to do something drastic to end it. They sacrificed themselves, fully intending to remove themselves from the world along with their adversaries. They only succeeded in putting all gods to a deep sleep.”

“So what about Leotas?” Westcott asked.

“Leotas is a manifestation of the energies from the sleeping Oulas, Lord of Lies,” the left Sister said.

“His energies created a mass delusion,” the right Sister said.

“Shit. What does all of that have to do with us?” Westcott asked. He was a lawman in a small town. This was way over his head.

“They are all waking up,” the left Sister said. “the first was Meggron, goddess of darkness.”

“She is responsible for the deaths and disappearances in both of your homes,” the right Sister said. “They are assembling in the darkness.”

“Who is assembling?” Afa asked. She was so close to solving the mystery she had been trying to solve for a long time.

“The children of Meggron,” both Sisters intoned together. “She is turning the people against their own kind. They must be stopped.”

“So some of those people who disappeared are still alive?” Westcott asked.

“Well,” the left Sister said. “They are alive but they are no longer human. They must be eradicated. Think of them as insects if it helps.”

“If they were responsible for the deaths of my friends and family, they are as good as dead,” Afa said. She had revenge in her heart and she was close to solving the mystery she had traveled across the world to solve.

“On that, we agree,” Westcott said. “I can’t abide killers out there somewhere.”

“Then I suppose you have accepted your mission,” the right Sister said.

“We will help you,” the left Sister said.

“How are you going to help us?” Afa asked.

“I’ve rarely seen you out in the town,” Westcott said. “You’re gonna come with us and hunt these things down?”

“No no,” the right Sister said. “We cannot leave this place for long. We have made something for you to locate the aberrations.”

“Made something?” Afa asked. “What did you make?”

The right Sister walked over to a curtain that Westcott and Afa swore had not been there before. She pulled it down and a very young girl was standing there. The girl waved awkwardly but otherwise did not move.

“We have made you a tool to track the aberrations,” the left Sister said.

“You made us a little girl?” Afa asked. She looked at Westcott in shock. “What is going on?”

“You made her?” Westcott asked. “I think somebody ought to explain the birds and the bees to you.”

“This is not a human girl,” the right Sister said. “This is a tool for locating children of the evil gods. It is infused with the energies of the seven.” The Sisters faces were covered but both somehow looked pleased with themselves.

“Uh, thanks?” Afa said. “I guess we’ll use her the best we can.”

“Does she have a name?” Westcott asked.

“Why would we name it?” the Sisters asked simultaneously. They cocked their heads in unison as a sign of confusion.

“Come on, then,” Westcott said. “Let’s go a hunting.”

“We’ll call you Isa,” Afa said. “Hello, Isa.”

Isa smiled and waved but said nothing.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 3

November 9, 2019

Deputy Westcott paused in the doorway, immediately put on guard by the large open room. Afa blew right past him and entered the huge hall. She spun around in a circle in the cavernous space, trying to take it all in. Westcott had drawn his gun, clearly spooked, and tried to search the shadows around them. Afa obviously seemed way more excited than scared. There was a damp chill to the air that clashed with the dry desert heat of Sunwood just outside the door.

“How is this place so big?” Afa asked, making plenty of noise. “This is crazy!”

“I have no earthly idea,” Westcott said. “I’ve never been inside of here before. It ain’t natural. Maybe it’s a good idea to keep it down?”

“Maybe I’m trying to wake the so-called Sisters, Deputy,” Afa said with a smile and a wink. “Did you think of that?”

“That’s sort of what I’m worried about,” Westcott said. “The Sisters are spooky.”

“Only because you fear what you do not understand, Westcott!” A voice rang out through the castle. It was loud enough to send vibrations through the bodies of Westcott and Afa.

Westcott did not see Afa move but suddenly she had both of her revolvers in her hands, slowly turning in a circle to look for the source of the voice. Westcott stepped into the room to join her, looking around for what had to be the Sisters. However, they sounded stronger somehow, more ethereal. The front door slammed shut and Westcott flinched. Afa only glanced at the door.

“Also, we do not sleep, young Afa,” Another voice said. “No need to wake us up.” The voices seemed to come from all around with no apparent source.

“Neat trick!” Afa yelled. “We just want to talk.”

“How ’bout you show yourself!” Westcott yelled.

“You both bear the mark of Gennii,” one voice said. “This is wise. We were worried your kind would reject it.”

“Come into our chambers,” the other voice said. “We would speak with you although you have violated our threshold.”

“Uh,” Afa intoned as she looked back at the door they had kicked in. “Sorry about that.”

“There are more important things at play, young Afa,” the other voice said. “We must talk.”

A small mote of light rose up from the floor and started to swirl around almost playfully like a moth. After floating around for a moment, it headed down a hallway.

“I reckon we’re supposed to follow,” Westcott said. He and Afa shared a look and then started walking after the light.

“I just wish they would stop calling me ‘young Afa’,” Afa said. “They didn’t call you ‘Old Westcott’.”

“Easy now,” Westcott said. “Words are hurtful.”

The two of them stepped into another chamber, this one draped in deep red velvet. Neither Afa nor Westcott could detect where the flickering lights were coming from. The door shut behind them again. They both turned toward the sound and when they turned back and the Sisters were standing there. Westcott had seen them before and they had been hunched-over, old crones. Now, they stood straighter and they were wearing odd porcelain masks but somehow Westcott still knew it was them. Afa and Westcott moved to point their guns again but the Sisters held up their hands, fingers spread wide and impossibly long. The skin was as pale as the porcelain. More motes of light swirled behind and around the Sisters as they stood calmly, imperiously.

“You do not need any weapons,” the left Sister said. “Calm yourself.”

“You will come to no harm in this realm,” the right Sister said. “You are safe. For now.”

“This realm?” Afa asked.

“What in the Hell does that mean?” Westcott said.

“We are no longer on your plane of existence,” the right Sister said. “You have ascended to a world beyond yours.”

“Time is limited,” the left Sister said. “You cannot last long here. Not safely.”

“Thought you said we were safe,” Westcott said but Afa shook her head and waved away the question. Westcott looked annoyed but stood by. None of this sat right.

“You said Gennii earlier?” she asked. She exposed her tattoo to the Sisters. “What does this symbol mean?”

“The symbol of Gennii,” the Sisters said in unison.

“It protects against those who creep in darkness,” the left Sister said.

“We introduced it to your village,” the right Sister said, pointing at Westcott. “And yet you are from far away but still bear the mark.”

“Yeah,” Afa said. “My people found it in a cave. We kind of lucked out.”

The Sisters looked at each other and then back at Afa. “There may still be hope,” the left Sister said. “The signs and symbols are still out there. They may yet be awakened.”

“What are you talking about?” Westcott asked. “Where did you get this protection symbol from?”

“Protection symbol?” the right Sister asked. “No, it is a symbol of the Goddess of Light. If the symbol worked, it means she is starting to wake up.”

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 3

October 19, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

The trio had to find a safe place to wait for the Wicked Witch of the West. None of them wanted to involve the general public in this fight. Of course, all three knew that human authorities were of no use. Sabrina came from a society where such things were strictly forbidden. Nancy’s mother had tried to appeal to the police and psychiatrists to no effect. Lydia and her family had never had the chance to call for help but it was unlikely normal humans could have done anything.

Besides, human authorities either did not want to deal with these sorts of things or they were not really capable of keeping up. Either way, it was best to fight fire with fire and it was easier to cut loose when innocents were out of the way. To facilitate that, Lydia and Sabrina worked on weaving a cloaking spell which would keep people away from the warehouse they had chosen. If all went well, the Wicked Witch would be cast back to Hell and nobody would be the wiser.

While they prepared, the other girls told Nancy in detail the story of Dorothy’s first trip to Oz during which the encounters with the Wicked Witches had happened. They told her of falling houses, a scarecrow, a tin woodsman, a talking lion, and all sorts of other wonders. They told her of subsequent trips and what Dorothy had learned. They talked about when they met and some of the other girls in their circle. After hearing the stories, Nancy very much wanted to meet Dorothy and the rest of the circle. Lydia promised the two of them would somehow make that happen if they got through the next fight. Maybe Sabrina could come back and meet Rob, too.

When the spell was in place, Sabrina snapped her fingers and a small black cat appeared. Nancy leaned down to pet the cat with a smile.

“Is this your cat, Sabrina?” Nancy asked. The cat quickly crawled up Nancy’s arm and draped itself across her shoulders, purring.

Sabrina laughed. “That’s my familiar, Salem,” she said. “He’s not exactly a cat. Not really.”

“What does that mean?” Nancy asked.

“Like you, Salem is more than meets the eye,” Nancy said. “Familiars are otherworldly creatures usually in the shape of Earth animals.”

“Salem will be good in the fight,” Sabrina said. “He is way tougher than he looks. Let’s finish getting ready for her.”

It was an hour later when they started to hear banging on the outside of the corrugated metal walls of the warehouse. It started slowly at first with what sounded like the occasional tennis ball hitting the wall. Then the sounds started to surround the girls and they got faster, louder, and more numerous. The three of them stood their ground and tried to stay calm.  The sounds began to get more rhythmic and synchronized, signalling a small army outdoors. As the sound climaxed, the sliding doors of the entrance slid open. Standing in all of her glory was the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, just as Dorothy had described her. She carried a broom etched with wicked-looking runes and there was a twisted smirk on her face.

“Well, my pretties,” West said. “Time to go to Hell!” Her voice was thin and high-pitched but somehow compelling and forceful. Her clawed hand flexed and she gripped the broom tighter. She grinned, revealing incredibly sharp teeth. Her face was impossibly angular and she was instantly identifiable as something no longer human. From the stories Lydia remembered, the Witch had ceased to be human before her death.

“Back off, West,” Sabrina said. “Nobody’s going to Hell but you and your stupid monkeys.” All of Dorothy’s girls knew the stories almost by heart and who could forget flying monkeys as villainous henchmen?

“Is that what you think they are?” West asked. “No. No more winged monkeys, no more Winkies. I have new friends now.”

“What are you talking about?” Nancy asked. “What are they?”

Creatures started to make their way through the door, they had orange-red skin, sharp teeth and they behaved like feral animals. “The goblins from down below,” West said. “You must be my prize, the one called Nancy.”

“Leave her alone!” Lydia called out, moving slightly in front of her best friend. The two of them glanced at each other and there was no need to say anything. They were in it together until the end.

“It’s best to give up now and save me the trouble,” West said. “Then I can go back and finish off that troublesome Dorothy.” She was having fun drawing out the anticipation and trying to get the three girls to squirm. All three bravely stood their ground and glared at the wicked witch.

“Back off, witch!” Lydia yelled. “Let’s get this over with.”

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 2

October 12, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

It was hours later when Sabrina showed up. She had bone-white hair and she was incredibly attractive, it made Nancy feel somewhat self-conscious. She shook off the feeling and moved on. She saw the worried yet happy look in Lydia’s eyes and wondered if she was not keeping her best friend from making other friends. Although she was cute, Sabrina had a cut across her cheek and a visible burn mark on her hand. Both had been properly treated but they were clearly fresh. They had met in front of the town library since neither Nancy or Lydia thought that Rob would agree to the risk of inviting a stranger to the bunker, even if Sabrina was a trusted friend of Lydia’s. As soon as they met, they moved quickly to a back room in the library so they could talk privately.

“Are you alright, Sabrina?” Lydia asked. “You look a little banged up.”

“I’ll live,” Sabrina said. “And luckily so will the others but it was a really close call.” She looked more relaxed now that she was sitting down but she still looked keyed up about something. It was definitely something really bad.

“Maybe we should start from the beginning,” Lydia said. She glanced over at Nancy in the corner. Nancy’s t-shirt had morphed back into a floppy sweater which was a clear sign that she was nervous. “Sabrina, this is Nancy, my best friend. Nancy, this is Sabrina, my old friend and classmate.” Nancy visibly brightened at the mention of her being Lydia’s ‘best friend’.

“Nice to meet you,” Sabrina said to Nancy. “Any friend of Lydia’s is somebody I can trust.”

“Thank you, Sabrina,” Nancy said. “What happened to you?” Nancy healed really fast so she was more likely to fuss over other people’s injuries. She had certainly fussed over Lydia and Rob enough.

Sabrina’s expression darkened and she shuddered. “That’s why I came here. She’s back, Lydia. The Wicked Witch of the West has returned and she’s in our world this time,” she said.

Lydia’s eyes went wide. “She’s dead!” she shouted and then remembered they were in a library. “Dorothy killed her in Oz.”

“Yeah,” Sabrina said. “but all worlds lead to the same Hell and they brought her back. There was a huge burst of hellfire and there she was. She caught us all off guard. Dorothy and I were the only ones left standing and we only kept everybody alive with a desperate defensive spell. Dorothy and the rest are safe in a hospital but I had to come and warn you.”

“Warn me?” Lydia asked. “What could she want from me?” and then her brain caught up with her and she shut her eyes with a sigh. “Oh.” She looked at Nancy.

“Not another one!” Nancy cried out and buried her face in her sweater sleeves. The rest of what she had to say only came out as mumbles as she was muffled by the fabric.

“What’s going on?” Sabrina asked. “What does she want?” The mystery had been eating at her the whole trip and now she was so close to figuring it out.

“She wants Nancy,” Lydia said. “Not me. The King of Hell wants Nancy.” She could feel the fear and anger rising inside. Nobody was going to take Nancy anywhere.

“Why?” Sabrina asked without knowing how loaded that question was.

Lydia and Nancy locked eyes and then Nancy nodded slowly. She literally trusted Lydia with her life. “Nancy’s dad was a demon,” Lydia said. “She inherited a lot of his powers and maybe even more.” Nancy watched Sabrina nervously.

Sabrina took that in for a moment. “That’s alright, Nancy,” she said. “A lot of my family worshiped the Devil for a while. Also, I’ve heard a lot of weird stories from our circle so I’m a little jaded at this point.

Nancy smiled and her sweater changed back into a t-shirt. “So who is this evil witch?” She asked.

“The Wicked Witch of the West,” Lydia said. “She clashed with our teacher Dorothy but died almost by accident from getting wet. It, uh, sounds sillier than it was.”

“Sure,” Nancy said. “but what is her name? You keep saying the Wicked Witch of the West.”

“She and her sister sold their names a long time ago in exchange for more power,” Sabrina said. “They have gone unnamed for a long, long time.”

“That’s pretty twisted,” Nancy said.

“They were some pretty twisted sisters,” Lydia said. “They ruled over large sections of the land of Oz and warred with the admittedly ineffectual government. Dorothy took both witches out and ended up helping with a regime change too. She’s gone back and visited some but that first trip was pretty rough.”

“So what are we going to do?” Sabrina asked. “We need a plan.”

“I think I have some ideas,” Lydia said. “Which I’ll need your help with, Sabrina. Nancy, think about what you can bring to the table. I know your powers take a lot out of you so we can’t rely on just you. We’re in this together.”

“As usual,” Nancy said with a smile.

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 1

October 5, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

“Oh dear sister,” the West said. “My mistake last time was getting fixated on you and that little girl. This time, I’m going to stay focused. So, I’m not bringing you with me.”

“Damn you!” East said. “You can’t leave me down here.”

“Oh dear sister,” West said. “I have the stamp of approval from the King himself. I’m about to do what I could not do before. I’ll get that little girl and then I’m off to capture the King’s prize.”

*                *                 *

It was summer vacation and Lydia and Nancy were left to their own devices which mostly meant just hanging out in the bunker or swimming down at the local pool. Rob had reported at the start of summer that his parents were making him go to summer camp and he would not be around. Demon activity had been strangely quiet but the girls knew that something would be back. They had interfered three times with demon plots and the one that had started it all, Ley, had said something about the King of Hell wanting Nancy. Lydia was not about to let that happen. So, they spent a lot of time studying whatever books they could get their hands on. The Bunker also had a remote link to a database from something called the Men of Letters which had been very enlightening so far.

It was on a hot July afternoon when Lydia had gotten a text. She was honestly surprised, she had been caught in that belief that overtakes people that once physical and temporal distance separates us from our past, it is gone forever. There were parts of her life that she had not told her best friend Nancy about. She never imagined she would tell Nancy about any of it but they had both been open books otherwise. They both had horrible pasts but that had bonded them together. Now their future did not look exactly bright but there was hope if they stayed together. Important to that was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Nancy,” Lydia said. “I just got a text.” She felt nervous. They had faced down demons and ghosts together on several occasions. She had had her own encounter with a deadly ghost. Her best friend was some sort of demon offspring. Still, she was nervous about not telling her friend something from her past. The words did not slip through her lips easily.

“Oh?” Nancy asked. “I didn’t think Rob was allowed to have a phone at camp.”

Lydia paused at that. “Is it troubling that he is our only other friend really?” she asked. The two of them ate lunch together at school, hung out together all the time, and had only recently started to hang out with the much younger boy who had shown up in their lives in a car with a trunk full of weapons. He had introduced him to the family bunker, a family he revered like kickass saints.

“No,” Nancy said. “The teen years are supposed to be awkward, right? Also, we’re totally weird.” She was not wrong, a witch and the daughter of a devil.

“True,” Lydia said. “but no. I got a text from an old friend. We’re going to be getting a visitor.” She slid her finger along the edge of her phone over and over, a nervous tic.

Nancy looked curious. She had changed since Lydia and she had met. She had started to blossom into a young woman who was less scared of the world and, most importantly, less scared of herself. Lydia had assured her over and over that she was not her father and that her admittedly fantastic powers were not a sign of evil. Nancy looked less like her usual muppety self without her trademark sweater but she had somehow used her own internal magic to turn it into a t-shirt. Those familiar red and green stripes were something that Nancy was rarely seen without. “Who’s coming?” Nancy asked. “I’m interested to meet one of your other friends.”

“When everything happened to me and my parents were killed I felt lost,” Lydia said. “My foster family just did not understand. I met a bunch of girls like me who were being tutored by a wise older lady named Dorothy. Like us, she had been the victim of magic. She had experienced another dimension and had come back changed from the experience. She had set out to learn witchcraft to make sure it never happened again to her or anybody else. I brought what little knowledge I had to the circle and they taught me so much. Eventually, my foster dad got a new job and we moved. We lost touch and I started off on my own journey and met you.”

“Wow,” Nancy said. “so you were part of an actual coven? I’ve only seen that kind of stuff in movies.” She looked so intrigued. She had such big wide eyes that made her look so innocent.

Lydia shrugged and smiled. “I’d hesitate to call it an actual coven,” Lydia said. “We never used that word. I’m sorry for not telling you about all of this until now.”

Nancy shook her head. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “We’re friends. Best friends and I trust you more than anybody in the entire world.”

“And beyond,” Lydia said with a smile.

“And beyond,” Nancy agreed. “So who’s coming? Are they riding a broom?”

“My old friend Sabrina,” Lydia said. “and maybe. You make fun but some of us learned to do that stuff. She’s on her way now. I can only imagine this will lead to a new danger for us.”

“We’ll face it together,” Nancy said.


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