Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

The Fifth Floor

August 10, 2019

When I got in the elevator at work this morning, I guess I was not paying attention when I pressed a button. When the door opened, the indicator said I was on the fifth floor. The sign on the side of the elevator door and the sign on the hallway wall both said ‘five’. Big red ‘fives’. 5. The red was unsettling.

I had not been aware that our building even had a fifth floor. I had never gone higher than the second floor. Well, that was not entirely true. I went up to the third floor the one time to steal toilet paper when our floor ran out. I had truly never ventured to the fourth floor but I had heard the echoes of peoples’ footsteps descending from it in the stairwell.

There I was, halfway out of the elevator on the fifth floor. I did not know what to do. I mean naturally, I had to get back on the elevator and ride down to my floor. But did I not have a duty to explore? I certainly had the opportunity and might never get it again. Work would always be there but this mystery might be fleeting. This was my opportunity.

I stepped into the hallway and the door closed behind me. The decision was made. I walked slowly down the hallway. I do not know why I was so cautious. There was no need to fear anything in an office building. Was there? The carpet seemed like our carpet, the walls seemed like our walls. It is always in moments like these that we realize how little we observe.

All of the signs were that disturbing shade of crimson red. The names were all foreign to me. I could not pronounce half of them. Nothing on the signs indicated what the offices were for. No “Dr.” prefixes and no hint of an “Esq.” or “CPA”. There was a definite dearth of evidence in plain sight. I would have to go deeper to figure things out. I was not sure if I wanted to do that. This was getting strange.

I headed back to the elevator but there was no button there on the wall. There was no indicator of what floor the elevator was on. I stood there and waited as if I could mentally summon the elevator. Obviously, nothing happened although I would not have been surprised by it with how weird the events of the day had been. Still, nothing happened. I could almost hear my heartbeat in the silence. I had to give up. My anxiety rose as I realized that I would have to go into one of the offices and ask somebody.

But which one would I try? I walked back down the hallway and stared hard at the office signs. I walked toward one door and at the last moment, I thought better of it. I thought about it a little longer and picked the sign that was the most comprehensible to me. I thought about knocking but you don’t knock on office doors, right? I tried to be as confident as possible as I opened the door. I put on a smile but I did not get a word out.

“Great,” the lady at the desk said, rising to her feet. “You’re finally here.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked. “I’m a little lost.”

“Are you thirsty?” she asked. “Do you want some water?”

“Actually,” I said. “Yes. Water would be great.”

The lady stood up and began to pour into a mug. “Once you drink this, we can begin,” she said.

“Begin?” I asked. “I don’t even know where I am.”

The lady tilted her head back and laughed. She stopped abruptly and held out the full mug. “How true,” she said. “I often feel like that too.” She handed me the mug.

I swished the liquid around in the mug and it made a strange bubbling, hissing sound.

“Is this blue?” I asked. “I don’t think this is water.”

“Oh dear,” she said. “It’s time.”

I felt a sudden strike to the back of my head and I lost consciousness.

* * *

I turned to the other bird on the branch. “So,” I said. “That’s basically how I got here.”

The other bird continued to ignore me.

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The Cave Witch

August 3, 2019

In the morning, the town would burn the swamp witch. She was accused of poisoning the crops outside of town and leading several youths astray through her potions. Nobody knew quite who the witch was. Everybody else in the town of Canterstone had been born within town limits and had grown up there. Like many small towns, the citizens’ reaction to outsiders ranged from curiosity to distrust. Those tides could also change quickly and when magic was involved. The witch had just appeared one day on the outskirts of town in the woods. Nobody was quite sure when she had actually moved into the cave as a hunter had spotted odd smoke coming out of it one day and that was that. She had arrived, evicting an old bear, and set up a home and shop far from prying eyes.

Little by little, some of the townspeople came to timidly visit her cave. Some were merely curious and wanted to catch a glimpse of the witch. Others came to browse here wares and see what a witch could give them for a little coin. She had not been very interested in coin but seemed to be more interested in offering services for barter. While this was not unheard of in a small village, it was a bit peculiar for what was technically a shop. Local law enforcement also visited the little cave and shouted questions from the safety of the mouth. The answers they received were sometimes straightforward and sometimes less so. She claimed to offer only peace but her status as a mystery made people nervous. Children were told to stay away and they disobeyed as children are wont to do.

Then things had gone all wrong and the peace was broken. Some crops had withered unexpectedly, threatening the town’s food supply. So close to harvest was not the time to lose crops like that. The village had grumbled about it but the local druids had moved on and could not be called on to investigate. Suspicions grew as the farmers did not want to admit that they might have failed and ruined a bit of the harvest. After that, a few of the young people were found to be goofing off instead of doing their work for their families. The timing was off as people were already looking for an excuse. One of the wayward teens blurted out something about the witch in the cave and that was it. This outsider had turned against the town and it had to be stopped. They took her captive while she slept and then she was doomed.

They had tied her to a pole in the middle of the town and left her there. In the morning, they would pile firewood and kindling around her and send her to the Hells. She slumped against the pole bound and gagged and sadly resigned to her fate. She had no tricks to pull to get out of her punishment. Gavin Flintshade’s mind would not settle and sleep would not come so, while everyone else slept, he stepped out to watch the witch.

“I wish I could know whether you were guilty or not,” Gavin said.

The witch said nothing, being gagged. It was hard to gauge her expression as she was absolutely encrusted with dried mud and bits of grass and her long hair covered a lot. However, her eyes said enough. Her glare was at the same time angry and pitying.

“I don’t suppose I could ungag you?” Gavin asked. “Would you promise me no tricks?”

The witch seemed to consider this. After they had stared at each other for some time, the witch nodded. Gavin thought he must be crazy or bespelled for even thinking of doing it but he walked up and ungagged her. She spat from the taste of the dirty cloth that had been her mouth but otherwise made no moves.

“My name is Gavin Flintshade,” Gavin said.

“My name is Rina,” the witch said.

Gavin waited for her to finish before he spoke. “Just Rina?” he asked.

“I am only Rina now,” Rina said.

“You don’t seem too dangerous to me, Rina,” Gavin said.

Rina smiled, the mud cracking at the corners of her mouth as if it was a foreign expression for her. “Looks are almost always deceiving,” she said. “But I never meant any harm to this town or its people. I wished only to live in peace.”

“How many years have you lived out there?” Gavin asked.

“Many,” Rina said. “Many without incident.”

“Exactly,” Gavin said. “That’s what troubles me. That’s what makes me think the people here have rushed to judgment.”

Rina paused and thought of what to say next. “In the cities, they would have had some sort of trial,” she said at last.

“We’re not equipped for that here,” Gavin said. “and I don’t think anyone’s inclined to hear you out.”

“I beg to differ,” Rina said. “You are listening.”

“I’m just one person,” Gavin said.

“We are all just one person,” Rina said.

There was a long pause after that and then there was a crack of thunder and it began to rain. Gavin and Rina looked around at all the houses but nobody stirred or made a move to protect the witch from the rain. She was only going to burn in the morning, anyway. Gavin stood there struggling with his own conscience but as he watched, a transformation began to happen. The rain started to wash the mud from Rina and Gavin was not prepared for what he saw. The palest white skin came into view as the mud fell away. Her hair was revealed as a wig made of some sort of woven grass. This was no human. This was not even an elf. It was nothing Gavin had ever seen before.

“What are you?” Gavin asked, his eyes wide.

“You have never seen one such as me,” Rina said. “I am Drow.”

Gavin gasped. “I thought your kind was a myth,” he said. “Aren’t you supposed to have black skin?”

Rina shrugged. “We had jet black skin soon after creation but ages of life underground away somehow changed our skin,” she said.

“And all the vicious rumors about your kind?” Gavin asked. “Are any of them true.”

“I can only imagine what the humans and elves and other races have invented,” Rina said. “However, most of my kind are still bitter against the races of the surface. However, there are many like me who escaped to the surface for a more peaceful life.”

“And then it all got ruined,” Gavin said. “By my kind.”

“It seems so,” Rina said.

There was another long silence and then Gavin stepped forward and moved to cut the ropes restraining Rina.

“What are you doing?” Rina asked. “Don’t.”

Gavin looked up in surprise. “This is not fair,” he said. “I can’t let this happen.”

Rina shook her head and spoke some arcane words and disappeared and reappeared on the ground, the ropes going slack without her form to hold them in place. “It would be incriminating if they found the ropes cut,” she said. “Go back to bed, Gavin Flintshade. I will depart in peace.”

“Good luck,” Gavin said and backed away to go back to his house.

“Goodbye,” Rina said and disappeared into the night.

The War Veteran

July 27, 2019

In the midst of the Battle for Hogwarts, Henry Redwell had been hit with the Cruciatus curse. He had been one of the many students who took up their wand against the Dark Lord’s army. It had never been his wish to be a fighter, to be in a war but it had been necessary. He still had no doubt that had they not fought back, He Who Must Not Be Named would have slaughtered them all after he had been done with Harry Potter. They had fought for their very survival and they had barely survived. Henry had done his best with what few lessons he knew but the students of Hogwarts were not really trained for such things especially with the meddling of Umbridge and Snape.

Henry’s older brother had been friends with Cedric Diggory and so Henry had met him on holiday several times before entering Hogwarts himself. The Redwell family had always been members of Hufflepuff going back ages and so Redwell had entered that house. His older brother had looked after him until graduation and by then Redwell had his own friends to keep him safe. The Redwells were loyal and so Hufflepuff made sense. They left the courage to Gryffindor, the usual champions against evil. Still, when the truth came out about Harry Potter trying to save Cedric’s life during the Tri-Wizard cup, Henry felt inspired by the story and all of the subsequent stories of Harry and his friends.

All told, Henry Redwell had probably been destined for a Ministry job or to take over the family shop. All of that changed in the Battle for Hogwarts but a lot changed that day for a lot of people. He had been fending off the attack of a death eater when he was hit from behind with the Cruciatus curse. It might have only been a moment or it could have been the hours that it felt like but the pain was excruciating nonetheless. He had been saved by Professor Lupin who took out both Death Eaters. Henry’s future wife Felicity Partridge had pulled him to safety and tended to his wounds the best she could. A smart man would have left it there but Henry Redwell had found his bravery.

Henry spent his remaining years in Hogwarts working toward a new goal. He asked Felicity, a girl with a truly brilliant mind, to tutor him and he poured himself into his studies. His grades saw an immediate improvement and with that momentum, he pushed himself even harder. As he walked the halls of Hogwarts, he would not stand for bullying. When he heard about a problem, he set out to put it right. He tried not to use force if talking worked and soon his friends were following his example. He was no leader but he had started a small trend that helped everybody at Hogwarts. He wondered briefly if this was what Dumbledore’s Army had felt like. He humbly shook that thought away and continued working toward his goal.

When he graduated Hogwarts, he just barely had the grades to become an Auror. Part of his acceptance as an Auror was due to his extracurricular anti-bullying behavior. He had shown that he wanted to be part of the community in a positive way while also protecting that community. He was accepted into a new global task force. The British government had been briefly compromised by the rise of the Dark One. If there had been closer ties within the worldwide wizarding world, aid might have come to England and the Battle at Hogwarts might have been completely different. So much could have been different. This new task force would root out dark wizards and try to stop another Grindelwald or Voldemort from rising to power.

Many people in England wanted to call them The Snake Eaters but thankfully it was agreed that this was a bad call. Having been at Hogwarts, Henry knew that there was still a lot of animosity against the Slytherin House. However, Henry had forgiven most of the ones he knew and the world was starting to warm to the idea of giving second chances to the least complicit snakes of the world. Henry’s compassion led to him getting command of his own squad and he had put one together after a lengthy interview process. He had recruited his own wife, Felicity, as the team medic.

Henry had forbidden the use of any magical methods to coerce captives to give up their wicked friends. Torture or tricks would only create animosity which would make reform all the more difficult. This meant no Veritaserum, no Imperius Curse, and definitely no Cruciatus Curse. Henry had picked a squad with near limitless patience so that they could obtain information purely through conversation. His team armed Henry with all of the knowledge he would need to outthink and connect with the person across the table.

Henry walked into the interrogation room carefully, closing the door slowly behind him. He sat down in front of a young woman with an intricate snake tattoo on her face. They had chased her through Bath, lost her, and then found her again and caught her in Blackpool. Henry took a deep breath and smiled gently at the young woman. He set his folder down in front of him. The woman spat in Henry’s face, the wad of spit hitting where his nose met his right cheek. His file never faltered and he slowly wiped the spit off and opened the folder.

“Now then,” Henry said. “Let’s have a little chat.”

Whitecrest Harbor

July 20, 2019

The swaying of the ship usually did not bother Val Stonecut but there had been so many storms on the way into Whitecrest Harbor. The deck had been raked with lightning, rain, and high winds. Mending spells were not going to do anything more than a few cosmetic fixes. Carpentry was the only thing that would really help but it would take time to make repairs on the boat. This was when it paid to not actually be part of the crew. Val was free to go ashore as long as he did not reveal the crew’s legal status as it were.

When Val had stepped off the ship, the ship’s one-eyed cat, Wink, had wanted to come along. He and the cat had gotten along as he fed food to her in his hammock below deck and the two of them sometimes shared the sun on the deck. Wink was a good cat. Val could see that the cat had also had enough of the water-logged vessel for the moment and agreed to take the poor thing along. Besides, if Val had a tail he would nervous to be around all of the swinging hammers too.

Wink was pleasantly clinging to Val’s shoulder, excited by all the smells of the city of Whitecrest had to offer. The cat was as excited as Val was to be in a new place. They both eyed food stands with steaming hot, fresh food. Though Wink was obviously a bit more interested in the fresh, raw fish. Val could also feel Wink dig her claws into his leather vest every time somebody got too close as if to make sure they did not get separated.

Val stopped short when he felt rather than saw a piece of wood press against his chest. A short human or a tall halfling stood in front of Val, poking him with some sort of wooden truncheon. Val smiled politely and held his hands up and empty in the universal symbol of peace and non-violence.

“Am I being robbed?” Val asked, only half-joking.

“Are you a criminal?” The woman asked. She kept the truncheon in place, eyes narrowing as she looked directly into Val’s eyes.

“Not the last time I checked,” Val said. “Do I have that look about me?” He looked about him as if he was looking for some outward sign of wickedness.

The woman laughed. “Sorry,” she said. “Sometimes that works.”

“Really?” Val asked.

“You’d be surprised,” she said and held up a platinum badge with a blue gem embedded. “Cora Clayline. Guard captain. <> District.”

Val stuck out his hand. “Val Stonecut,” he said. “So you’re bored?”

Cora shook his hand. “Basically,” she agreed. “I usually stroll through this area about now and catch plenty of pickpockets within an hour. It’s a slow day.”

Val had personally spotted three pickpockets while they had been standing there talking but he was not about to snitch. He had respect for the profession. “What a pity,” was all he said.

“So,” Cora said. “You have a lot of tattoos.”

“Is that a crime here?” Val asked. He was amused at this halfling cop and her idle attention. If only she knew.

Cora reached up toward Wink and Val stooped a bit to make it easier for her to scratch behind her ears. “Of course not, I just wondered what it is you do.”

“Oh I’m just very interested in art,” Val said. “As for my profession, I travel in order to draw maps of the world.”

Cora nodded. “And you need to carry around that fancy sword to do that?”

“One never knows in this world when one will need to defend one’s self,” Val said, purposefully diplomatic and obtuse. “The sword is mostly for show in order to frighten away weaker willed crooks. I’ve rarely used it.”

Cora looked doubtful but let it drop. “I suppose many people carry weapons,” she said. “That one is just particularly pretty.”

“Thank you,” Val said. “It was a gift from the forge of a Prince of Kofrain. I mapped a particular set of ruins for them.”

Cora nodded. “Oh,” she said. “You’re very worldly.”

Val laughed gently. “I do my best,” he said. “Now if you’ll excuse me. My cat and I are famished and we must resolve that before we pass out on your streets.”

Cora smiled. “I owe you a meal and a drink for delaying you, then,” she said. “Allow me to accompany you. My treat.”

Val smiled despite not wanting to eat lunch with a cop but thought it would be a worse idea to turn her down. “Lead the way,” he said. “I’m sure you know the best places.”

Snake Skin Pt. 2

July 13, 2019

Mera and Clark walked cautiously into the huge, empty warehouse. It smelled like a renovation site for sure but there was the scent of something wild underneath it all. Their wands did not cast nearly enough light but it gave them a perimeter. Mera watched the rear as Clark watched the front and was, therefore, leading the way. Their wands were at the ready, just as they had been so many times before. Mera knew that whatever was in the warehouse had seen her and Clark. She also knew that Clark must have realized that too. It was a measured decision, though, since neither could fight blind.

As they stepped beyond the light shining from the door, some movement suddenly entered their small circle of light. It was absolutely silent and an absolute blur of motion. Whatever it was, it had claws which stretched out toward the two wizards menacingly. Clark’s wand snapped up and he called out “Protego!” and a blue shield appeared in the air. The claws scraped against the energy of the shield and sounded like knives on steel. The shield flickered and failed but the beast had already disappeared back into the darkness.

“Shit!” Clark muttered. “It’s pretty damn big!”

“Too big for you?” Mera asked. “It’s no bigger than an Erumpet and we’ve taken care of two of those.”

“Not helping,” Clark hissed. “Watch yourself. It’s fast. What is it? You’re the scholar between us.”

“I’m not sure yet,” Mera said. “I need more info than just the claws.”

They kept moving through the darkness. Now that they knew that the creature was a hunter, they could not stay still out in the open. A few yards further and another shape loomed in their light but this time it was at ground level. Mera saw a glimpse of gray and a feline structure and she reacted immediately. She pointed her wand and called out “Reducto!” and the shape crumbled to dust violently.

“Um, Partner,” Clark said. “Did you just disintegrate our target?”

“No,” Mera said. “I had a hunch on what it might be and I was right.”

“Well, then what is it?” Clark asked.

“It’s called a Forge Tiger,” Mera said. “It uses available materials to create statue clones of itself to confuse and corral its prey.”

“Are you telling me we are dealing with an actual copy cat?” Clark asked.

Mera groaned. “Yes. That’s where the term comes from.”

“And why is it not attacking us?” Clark asked.

“My guess is that it’s pouting because we destroyed its statue,” Mera said.

“Then let’s destroy some more,” Clark said.

“You got it,” Mera said.

They started moving again and when they saw a statue, they hit it with a destructive spell and took them apart. Six statues crumbled one by one and the last one looked hastily constructed. As that last statue fell, there was a roar of challenge and desperation. A brilliantly purple tiger leaped out of the darkness, claws out. Clark pointed his wand at it and called out “Manus Fortis!” and a gigantic glowing blue hand reached out and snatched the tiger out of the air.

As Clark lowered the tiger to the ground, Mera pulled out a glass vial. It was a powerful sleeping draught that she had brewed herself as she had learned in the dungeons of Hogwarts. She unstoppered the steel flask and held it up, pointing her wand at it. She called out “Caligo!” and the liquid evaporated into a small cloud. She guided that cloud to the tiger and as soon as the tiger started to breathe it in, it fell asleep. It stopped struggling against Clark’s spell. Clark pointed his wand again and calmly said “Incarcerous” and the beast was suddenly bound in ropes.

“Good job, partner,” Clark said. “Let’s drop the copy cat off and then I owe you a crab cake.”

“I think I deserve two crab cakes,” Mera said with a smile. “and a beer.”

“A beer?” Clark asked. “It’s a deal.”

Mera smiled and thought to herself that maybe snakes can shed their skin. Maybe people can change for the better and then their life does the same. She was living proof. She hoped that her old housemates out there were doing the same. She hoped that they were happy. She hoped that the good times were finally here and that the darkness was well behind and the world was safe. She hoped and sometimes that was enough.

Character Classes Pt. 1

July 8, 2019

I thought I would work on developing some thoughts I have had on the player character classes to be used in my Dungeons and Dragons setting. Some of my thoughts are based on expanding the concepts of each class. Some or all of these thoughts have probably been thought of before but I want to expand my own thinking beyond the stereotypes of the genre. The short stories I have written so far also strive to explore each of these roles and I will continue to do so as I keep expanding this world. Anyway, here is part one of three.

Wizards

The most common magic user in the whole of the world. Wizarding comes from study, practice, experimentation, and knowledge passed down through the years. Wizards stand on the shoulders of giants. Well, not literally, but they work off the foundation that their forebearers and teachers built for them. Wizards are a dime a dozen as anybody with a good enough head on their shoulders can learn spells. And so many people know a few spells but are not anything to write home about. These local wizards are more often known as ‘hedge wizards’ and they use what spells they know to help their local villages. True Wizards are something else entirely. They can often be found as adventurers or hired by nobles and royalty. Wizard training is usually done in a formal setting in schools where admission is based on aptitude, wealth, and/or lineage. The third kind of wizard is somewhat rare and that is the witch. Witches are generally rural wizards who have less formalized training mostly based on knowledge passed from person to person. Wizards also make up the entirety of utility magic users like enchanters. Enchanters usually do not become adventurers and tend to stay put to provide for the needs of the people for coin.

Warlocks

Warlocks are less common as magic users but there are still plenty around. Warlocks gain their magic from non-human patrons from beyond the world of man. They are therefore conduits of magical power and knowledge that comes from making deals with these beings. People make deals with all sorts of beings from the planes beyond the material. The first of these are the faeries who dwell in the Feywild in the chaotic maelstrom of wild magic. The second of these are the devils who dwell in the Nine Hells and impart their infernal knowledge. The third group is the celestials though not the angels or the deities themselves but the enigmatic beings that moved into the Upper Planes along with them. The fourth group is the most mysterious as some Warlocks call on beings from beyond, most of them nameless and shapeless and of unknown origin but could be more proof that there was something before the Gods. It can be hard to fully trust a Warlock as their deal with their patron sometimes drives their decisions. Haunted by dreams and voices from beyond, warlocks often have difficult choices to make that concern the clashes between free will and their supposed calling.

Sorcerers

The rarest of the magic users, Sorcerers are fewer and farther between than any other magic user in the world. Sorcerers are people who are born with the power of magic flowing through them which they can use to approximate the spells of other magic users. Except their magic does not operate the same way that it works for others. Their magic is less predictable and comes from inborn wells of power and intuition and practice. If anybody knows how sorcerers are made, they have not revealed it to anybody. Theories abound but nobody knows how they are made for sure or how to test those theories. Some think they are created when a child is born near a place of magical fallout. Others think that they have something to do with the blood of dragons, faeries, celestials or demigods. Others think the power comes from something much older than Gods and much more mysterious. Sorcerers remain a mystery but they are much revered and sought out for their unique magical abilities.

Rogues

Rogues are often the sneaky individuals who roam the world sticking to the shadows and the hidden places. The most commonly known rogue is the thief. Men and women with quick fingers who fleece the rich and they are the balancing force that opposes the law. These burglars and cutpurses are sometimes good to have along with adventuring parties as their nimble fingers and criminal experience allows them to disable traps. There is also the assassin, a killer who strikes from the shadows for coin. Assassins are not necessarily criminals as many governments employ killers for their own purposes. There are also the rogues who dabble in magic called arcane tricksters. These rogues use magic and practical methods much like their purely practical counterparts. Of course, many officers of the law and bounty hunters can also use the techniques of a rogue. Detectives and soldiers often study their prey enough that they learn to act as they do and use the shadows to their advantage. Rogues tend to be secretive folk and tend to blend into society. Many of the best of them are employed by big gangs or thieves guilds.

Snake Skin

July 6, 2019

Mera Warren had seen her share of darkness. Her path had been darkness but she turned away from that path and had started to walk toward the light. Though she was widely known as a snake, Slytherin class of 2001, Mera had learned to harness that ambition for the forces of good. She had been young in 1998 when she and her fellow Slytherins had been locked in the dungeons with the rest of her house during the final battle with Voldemort. She had let her fear convince her to go along with the rest when she refused to fight in the battle. It was that and listening to the words of Draco Malfoy and his hangers-on. The older kids had convinced her that they were doing the right thing. When even Dracoy turned away from the dark, it was clear that they had all made the wrong choice.

After Hogwarts reopened, classes resumed but she and the rest were looked down upon by the other three houses. Some of the teachers found it hard to stick up for the students. Many Slytherins transferred to other schools. Mera had not been given that option. Her parents were not that well off and so she had to say goodbye to many of her friends. She had toughed it out. She kept her head down for a while and then little by little, she proved that she could be trusted. She helped Professor McGonogal clean up after class, she visited Hagrid, she tried and eventually succeeded in making friends. Inch by inch, rung by rung, she redeemed herself. Still, when it came time to graduate, she packed up her bags and left England.

She needed a fresh start. She needed to get out from under the cloud of Voldemort’s second reign of terror and the Battle of Hogwarts. There were too many memories even on the streets of London. Mera felt like she must have green scales after all because people seemed to instantly know who she was. In addition, she still harbored that Slytherin ambition. She wanted to be somebody but she did not know who that person was yet. All of her dreams had turned out to be nightmares and it was time to find new dreams. And so, she went to America. She arrived in Baltimore with very few bags and very little direction but a new lightness in her heart.

It was not long before she worked her way into the wizarding world of the East Coast of the United States of America. She got a lot of attention from her accent at first. She had not realized she had one but everybody had a comment. They were nice about it but it made Mera feel self-conscious. Finally, she got a steady job offer. Her skills with fast-casting and even faster thinking had qualified Mera to be a magical bounty hunter of sorts. It was a department inspired by the appearance of Newt Scamander in America in the early 20th century. The department, the US Department of Magical Creatures deputized certain officers to track and safely contain magical creatures in the most humane way possible.

“Hey partner,” Clark Coulson said gently. “You still with me?” He had been her partner for months now and they got along very well.

“Huh?” Mera said. “Sorry. I guess I was swimming in my past again.”

“Well,” Clark said. “We have our assignment. Do you want to get going?”

Mera stretched and shook the tension out of her shoulders. “Where are we going?”

“A warehouse in Canton,” Clark said. He was big and tall, and working class like a construction worker. He would have been a Hufflepuff back in Hogwarts for sure. “Just follow my lead, I know the way.”

Mera nodded and the two of them apparated across town and landed on an out of the way cobblestone street. Mera could see the harbor through a sliver of a gap in some buildings. She had never been too far from the water in her life.

“This is the place?” Mera asked, pointing toward a warehouse clearly in the process of being renovated and repaired. Much of the waterfront area was getting revamped and there was plenty of construction and reconstruction.

“That is the place,” Clark said. “The guy with the key should be here in a minute. Once we’re done, I’ll treat you to something from Fell’s Point. You want a crabcake?”

“That does sound delicious, Clark,” Mera said. “So why wait?” She pointed her wand at the locked door and called out ‘Alohamora!” and the door opened with a deep clicking sound.

“Always so gung ho,” Clark said. “I guess it’s technically not breaking and entering since we’re supposed to be here. Stay behind me.” He started toward the door.

“Excuse you?” Mera said. “Stay behind me.”

“Mera,” Clark said. “Let me be the meat shield. There’s nobody I trust more to watch my back and I’m better at shield charms. You’re better at combat spells. Facts are facts.”

“Well, if you were going to flatter me, you should have led with it,” Mera said with a smile. “Lead the way, meat shield.”

Clark smirked and pushed the door open wider. It was pitch black inside and deadly silent. They both looked at each other and almost said “Lumos!” in unison and the tips of their wands lit up. They stepped into the darkness, their steps echoing on concrete.

The Nighthawk Pt. 3

June 24, 2019

What about this case? Would I be doing the right thing by figuring out what was going on here? Would I be protecting the people of this city? I thought of the people in that folder. They were all drug users but that did not really make them innocent or guilty. Their criminal records might show that they had dark spirits and stained souls but I believed that nobody deserved to die before their time. Especially if something that bumps in the night was somehow causing all of this. I guess I was taking the case.

I realized that I had not asked Mr. Black for contact information. I did not know what to do even if I found the evidence the Council was looking for. I also did not know how the Council would deal with the guilty. Did creepy crawlies get trials or would this Council just bring down the ax as soon as I handed over the evidence that incriminated the perp for doing whatever it is they did? I found the thought made me feel uneasy. I never worked homicide because I did not believe in the death penalty.

I had killed less than a handful of criminals but that was in the heat of the moment and in all cases it had been a clear case of self-defense. Them or me. Still, I felt bad about the thought of ending the life of another person. I needed a better working relationship with my clients if I was going to finish this job.

I hit the library early to figure out how to summon a djinn. Mr. Black owed me more answers and besides, I had to inform the Council that I was going to take the case. It was difficult to tell from the internet what the correct path was. How was I supposed to separate the nuts from the scholars when they both looked the same to me? None of it was helping so I did the only thing I could think of. I headed to the dustiest area of the library to look in the occult section.

It had been a long time since I visited the library. When I was a police detective, I could put in an order for someone to look this up for me. Well, not this but just about any book research I needed. I guess I underestimated what I had put the people in archives through. Now that I was working alone, I had to wear all of the hats. I started to look through the stacks to find something I could use to contact Mr. Black or this Council.

After twenty minutes of thumbing through old books, I realized that I was still getting nowhere. Mr. Black had said that most people who pierce the veil go crazy or everybody thinks their crazy. How was I supposed to tell the difference just by reading their rambling theories and magic spells? Even if I could make sure that the ramblings were actual, legit magic. I was beginning to doubt my own story. Had I even met Mr. Black? Could I remember how much whiskey I had drunk?

That line of thinking was getting me nowhere. Besides, I know it was just a half tumbler of whiskey and Mr. Black’s horrible non-face was burned into my brain forever. There was no way I imagined all of it. I turned toward a new shelf full of books with renewed determination. Though at that point I wished I had an expert to count on.

After another hour, I was about to go get something to eat so I could clear my head. I turned to go when I almost ran into a woman walking down the aisle. Her skin was as pale as a piece of paper and she wore dark black make up. Her hair was jet black except for some dark blue highlights. She was pretty but the goth look was not really my thing. I gave her a quick ‘excuse me’ and started past her.

“John Redcross?” She asked, leaning a little against one of the bookcases. When I turned, I could see the wry little smirk on her black lips. She was watching me waiting for an answer but I had a feeling she already knew who I was.

“Yeah. I’m John Redcross. Don’t tell me, I ruined your sister’s marriage with my camera?”

“I don’t think so but it’s nice to know you have that skill.” Her smirk said that she was definitely willing to let me twist in the wind.

“You must see my confusion, miss,” I said. “You know my name and I can’t recall yours. I would think I would remember your face. No offense.”

“No offense is taken. I know what I look like. I’m a beautiful, unique snowflake.” That smirk intensified as her eyes seemed to look right through me.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“That depends on who you ask,” she said.

I laughed as loud as I dared in the middle of a library and shook my head. “I’m asking you. Did the Council send you?”

“Of course they did. How else would I know who you are and where to find you?” She said.

“Yeah, I guess that’s probably true.” I was starting to get a headache from figuring out who I should trust and who I shouldn’t.

“Find anything useful here?” she asked.

“Hold up, let’s go back to the part where you introduce yourself,” I said.

“You can call me Corva,” she said.

“I can call you..?” I asked. “I can never get a straight answer out of you people. Even when the question is just about your name.”

“Sorry, maybe you’re not the only one who is wondering how much to trust,” Corva said.

“Forgive me if my language sounds insulting but can you at least tell me what you are? You look human to me even if your fashion sense is interesting.” Now that I had recovered from the shock, I noticed now that she was wearing a little black dress with a black leather jacket. She was wearing knee high black boots that looked like they were real leather as well.

In the House of the Law

June 15, 2019

In House of the Law in Osten on the border of the Bremid Empire, Gedreel paced back and forth. She was so anxious that she found herself practically shaking apart. The guards gave her the side eye and she decided to stay absolutely still. She briefly considered waiting out front but thought that might now look suspicious so she tried to hold it together. She had always been a good girl and she was rarely in a House of Law. She had been raised in the temple by the Order, a little sheltered maybe but walking the true path. She knew that she had done nothing wrong so why was she nervous? At least she was reasonably sure she was innocent.

She was in the middle of cataloging her every past action when Cherish strolled out from the holding cell area, escorted by another guard. Gedreel immediately forgot where she was and ran to Cherish and hugged her close.

“Oh, Cherish! I am so glad that you are alright,” she said and then paused. “You are alright, right?”

Cherish sighed but smiled. “I’m fine, Geddy,” she said. “I’m over the moon glad to see you but you didn’t have to come here for me.” She started to gently guide Gedreel from the building.

“Wait!” Gedreel said and stayed rooted to the spot. She held Cherish at arm’s length and inspected her thoroughly. Cherish had all of her fingers and toes, two legs, two arms, her tail, one blue eye, and one red eye. One of her horns was broken but Gedreel knew it had been that way when she met Cherish. Cherish refused to fix it no matter what Gedreel offered. Then Gedreel spotted the bruise just behind Cherish’s left ear. She gasped and gently laid her hand on it and healed her skin back to its usual crimson hue. She shot the guards a dirty look and she was about to say something nasty to them when Cherish pushed her outside.

“Relax Geddy,” Cherish said. “I’m fine.”

“But they hit you!” GEdreel yelled before suddenly realizing her loud volume. “They shouldn’t hit you.”

“On that point, we can both agree,” Cherish said. “And yet that’s what they do sometimes when they arrest people.”

“Why aren’t you angrier?” Gedreel asked. “I would be angry.”

“I was angry the first three times,” Cherish said. “After that, you figure out that it’s pointless to get angry when bitter will do just fine.”

“What were you even arrested for?” Gedreel asked.

“I was arrested for being a Tiefling, same as always,” Cherish said. “Same old song and dance.”

“But you were born that way,” Gedreel said. “Tiefling blood does not equate to automatic guilt.”

“I know that,” Cherish said. “and you know that but plenty of people can’t seem to grasp that.”

“But you were a member of the Queensguard of Deneia!” Gedreel said. “Your honor is beyond reproach.”

Cherish shook her head. “That’s not exactly a point in my favor in these small towns,” she said. “Being a bodyguard in a government controlled by my kind. Most tell me to just go back there.”

Gedreel gasped again and grabbed Cherish’s hand. “But you can’t go back there!” She said. “Your uncle said he would kill you!”

“They wouldn’t care, Geddy,” Cherish said. “I think you care enough for all of us who don’t care.”

“Last time we met, you said I care too much,” Gedreel said.

“I was wrong,” Cherish said. “We need people who care like you. I need people who care.”

“I do care!” Gedreel said. “You know I do.”

“Why are you here, Geddy?” Cherish asked. “Not that I’m complaining but how did you hear about my arrest? How did you know I was here?”

“Holy Lathander sent me a vision, a message to come and get you,” Gedreel said

“I didn’t know you got visions,” Cherish said. “You never got visions back in Deneia.”

“This was my first one,” Gedreel said, her eyes were bright and merry. “It was exciting.”

“Your first vision sent you to me?” Cherish asked. “Why? Why would Lathander send you to me?”

“I think that he means for us to be together for some purpose,” Gedreel said. “I think we’re meant to help people by defeating a great evil.”

“A great evil?” Cherish asked. “You I can understand but me? Really?”

“Yes,” Gedreel said. “Also I think Lathander has blessed my proposal of marriage.”

Cherish smirked. “Geddy! Are you proposing to me?”

Gedreel’s eyes widened and she blushed furiously. “I meant that to be a grander romantic gesture!”

“It was fine,” Cherish said with a smile. “Very romantic. Very you.”

Gedreel took a deep breath. “Cherish Westera Goldsong, we have known each other for so long and though our paths have pulled apart, fate and the gods above have brought us back together. I have thought of you every day that we were apart. Now that we are together again, I do not want to leave you ever again. Cherish will you–“

This was the point where Cherish kissed Gedreel. They kissed for a long, long time. They kissed until they had to come up for air. They smiled at each other and Cherish dragged Gedreel off to an inn to celebrate.

The Nighthawk Pt. 2

June 8, 2019

“Don’t run. I mean ya no harm.” The voice said from no visible mouth whatsoever.

My response was a stunned silence with a renewed hawk-like watching of the puddle. I also might have definitely let loose a string of unrepeatable swear words. Alright, I definitely said the swear words. Meanwhile, the puddle was doing an awful lot of moving which looked disturbingly like it was animated by Ray Harryhausen. This is not the sort of thing that you expect to see on your office floor. The liquid coalesced into a blackened mess which might be interpreted as muscles and a skeleton. No skin seemed to be forthcoming but thankfully the thing slowly started to form clothes.

Imagine a blackened skeleton in a gray fuzzy sweater and brown corduroy pants. Now imagine that this delightful figure was four feet tall and was somehow both terrifying and adorable. That was what the creature who had just reverse-melted off my floor looked like. I had so many questions but my brain had put on the brakes at this point and I was already reaching for that old family revolver tucked into a holster by the small of my back.

“Lay off the gun, kid. I promise I won’t hurt ya.” The little black skeleton said.

“Did you just use a Brooklyn accent?”

“Good,” the Skeleton said. “You’re lookin’ at me without pissin’ yourself. I did live in Brooklyn for a long time. Actually since before you monkeys showed up. It was way different back then but that’s beside the point.”

I stayed leaning against the wall, hand near my gun. I never did trust easily. “What is the point, creepy skeleton man?”

“This is creepy?” The skeleton asked. “Your species is so close-minded.”

“You keep floating away from making an actual point. Why are you haunting my office?” I was getting annoyed quickly. At least annoyed was better than scared. I headed back toward my desk, making a wide berth around the skeleton. At least I could use the desk as cover if this thing went from David Lynch to David Cronenberg.

“Alright, alright,” the skeleton said. “I guess being timeless makes you less inclined to rush things. I guess your impatience is more or less a biological imperative. I don’t have really have a biology so I’m not really sure.” The thing’s eye holes tracked my movements. Every single moment.

“What are you?” I asked. It was probably rude and blunt but I was rattled. Sue me.

“I guess I’m a messenger of sorts in this situation. Of course, maybe you’re actually asking what sort of creature I am. I am a djinn.”

“I’ll bite. What’s a djinn?’ I asked, still wondering if I had drunk enough whiskey to black out. If this was real, I was glad for the calming effect of the alcohol.

“A djinn is basically a being of thought and emotion and magic. Very few of us actually hang out here in the real world but reality kind of grew on me so I visit every so often.” The skeleton gestured and a lit cigar formed in his hand and he began to smoke. I did not smell any smoke.

“What’s your name?” I sat down, my legs ached with released tension.

“Unpronounceable. People call me Mr. Black. That works well enough.”

“My name is John Redcross but you probably saw the name on the door. You said ‘people’. What people would talk to something like you?”

“I’ll forgive the bigotry you’ve got going on there,” Mr. Black said. “The people I talk to are mostly the Council and that brings me to why I’m here. Like I said, I brought you a message.”

“First, who’s this Council? If you have a message from them for me, I’d like to know who they are.” I reached for a pencil and a piece of paper if only to look professional if this was going to be some sort form of business meeting all of a sudden.

“Makes sense. The Council is the ruling party of the so-called supernatural world. A world, we’re aware you briefly experienced just about a year ago.”

My heart tightened in my chest and my gaze went to Harmony’s badge where it was framed on my wall. “So it was real.”

Mr. Black nodded. “Yeah, they’re real. The Nagloshi are some vicious sons of bitches. Whatever they did to her could not have been any good. That’s not why I’m here.” He gestured with the cigar a bit while he talked. The talking skeleton bit was starting to get less unnerving. I am not sure whether this acceptance was something positive or negative. Regardless, my enemy had a name now which made them chillingly more real but also more within the reach of my revenge.

Mr. Black spoke up again, filling the silence. “Earth to Detective Redcross, do you want to hear the message or not?”

“A creepy little skeleton muscles his way into my office with a message from some clandestine council of supernatural beings?” I asked. “Of course I want to hear the message.”

Mr. Black put out the cigar he had been smoking on the top of his shiny black skull and shrugged. “Alright then. The Council is aware that you have discovered a piece of our world. It’s what we call ‘piercing the veil’. Most people who pierce the veil either go crazy or the world thinks their crazy and things spiral from there. It’s only when a large number of people discover the truth at the same time that we have to worry.”

“So if they’re not worried about me then why send you to creep me out?” I asked.

“Again with the impatience and bigotry. They sent me here to hire you. There have been several deaths in the Woodland Heights area and we think a rogue faction is responsible.”

“Don’t you have your own cops?” I asked.

“We do but the case involves both mortal drugs and the supernatural,” Mr. Black said. “They feel that since you have pierced the veil and have experience with human crime, you might be better equipped to handle this. Also, if you’re not gonna go nuts, you might as well prove useful.”

“I still don’t understand anything about this. Frankly, I don’t know if I want to help a community that killed my partner and lost me my career.”

“Don’t go lumping the rest of us in with that one Nagloshi,” Mr. Black said holding his hands up in the universal sign of ‘we come in peace’. “We’re not all psycho predators. Just like any community, we have our good guys and bad guys. We’re offering you the chance to step inside our ranks and be a good guy. You don’t have to like us to do the job. In fact, you’ll probably be more objective if you remain skeptical.”

“Your council is afraid that if too many people die, you will be risking exposure,” I guessed.

“Obviously,” Mr. Black said. “I guess those are the kind of smarts that they’re banking on.” Even with no skin on his face, I could feel the sarcasm radiating off Mr. Black.

“If I do this, will I get information on these Nagloshi?” I asked.

“Officially, I should warn you that revenge is not the diplomatic sort of idea that will keep you alive in our world. Unofficially, you might discover a few things about the nasty buggers. I honestly don’t know where this case goes, I’m not psychic.”

“Where do I start? Usually, there’s a crime scene or a case file for me to look at. “

“Hold onta your hat, detective. I got what ya need right here. There’re no active crime scenes right now but I picked up this from the local station house.” He pulled a file folder out of thin air and held it out. I came around the desk and tentatively took it from his bony fingers and retreated back behind the desk.


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