Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 3

October 21, 2017

Aftershocks 2

The three of them ran as fast as they could, blood sloshing at their ankles and their footfalls splashing as they ran. They ducked through a doorway and Lydia slammed the door behind them. All three of them held the door against the pressure of the flow of blood, breathing hard. They looked around and found that they were in what looked like a small ballroom with tables set up for some kind of party. There was a rolling bar set up in one corner. In the other corner, there was DJ equipment set up.

“What was that?” Nancy asked. She was looking down at her formerly white socks which were now red. Her sneakers were probably ruined.

“It wasn’t cherry kool-aid, that’s for sure,” Rob said.

They slowly eased off of the door and it held by itself. They made their way into the room.

“This place has some really creepy tricks,” Nancy said.

“I’ve heard some nasty things about the place they used to be. I think it was called the Overlook,” Rob said.

“I don’t think I want to know,” Nancy said.

“So, where is Jack?” Lydia said. She practically yelled it she was so mad.

“He is down below,” A voice from behind the bar said. “doing the devil’s work. He is not to be disturbed.” The man’s nametag read Lloyd and he was dressed like an employee of the hotel.

“Well,” Lydia said. “He’s as good as dead.”

“Yeah,” Nancy said. “We kind of want to talk about this place’s policies on demons and by ‘talk’ we mean stab.”

“I’m afraid that we can’t let that happen,” Lloyd said. “You’ll have to die and we’ll feed you to our new home like all the rest.” As he spoke, several other ghosts faded into view and surrounded the three young demon hunters. The three of them found themselves standing back to back to back, facing the threat.

“Try us, asshole,” Lydia said, practically bearing her teeth in defiance. The ghosts started to move toward the trio.

Nancy swallowed hard and gripped the iron poker tightly. She swung it at the oncoming ghosts and watched them flicker angrily and disappear as the poker passed through them. She kept swinging hard, thrashing around viciously. Rob aimed his shotgun and fired over and over. He wished that he had had time to shake out a salt circle around them to try and hold off the ghosts. He searched his mind for any memories of what his family would have done in this situation. When he ran out of shells, he pulled out a wicked silvery spike and swung that at the ghosts. Its impact made a burning line in each ghost and they flickered and disappeared. For her part, Lydia was also fighting hard. She swung her new sword at each ghost and its steel composition had a similar effect on the ghosts. Her slashes and parries made each ghost flicker and disappear.

After a while, the three of them started to get tired. They kept swinging and getting rid of ghosts but they were starting to notice that ghosts they got rid of earlier were only coming back for more. Lydia had had enough. She dropped her sword and flexed her magical will as she gestured her hand toward Lloyd.

“Back to Hell!” She yelled out. The words somehow sounded amplified and reverberated through the room. The ghosts all suddenly got very still and Lydia closed her fingers one by one. Lloyd’s form trembled and then started to smoke and then it burned up like a piece of paper in the fireplace. She turned to the other ghosts and gestured more widely and they all started to tremble and then burn up. In the silence that followed, she found that she was suddenly sitting in a chair trying to catch her breath. Nancy was kneeling beside her, holding her hand.

“Are you alright?” Nancy asked. Her eyes were wide and glimmered like a puppy dog’s eyes. Nancy was such a good person despite her lineage.

“Yeah,” Lydia said. “Sorry that took so long to figure out.”

“Don’t apologize!” Nancy said. “That was awesome!”

“It was really impressive,” Rob said.

“Thanks,” Lydia said. “It’s been something I’ve been working on for a while just in case you-know-who comes back someday. I’m just really glad it worked.”

“Where would you even learn something like that?” Rob asked. “My family doesn’t have a lot of good experience with witches.”

“She’s a good witch,” Nancy said. “Like Glynda.”

“Glynda with attitude but only because I was tired of being like Dorothy,” Lydia said. “I learned everything from reading and some coaching from some friendly ghosts. I could let you skim some of my books at some point.”

“Really?” Rob asked.

Lydia nodded. “Ever heard of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased?”

“No,” Rob admitted. “But I would love to see it.”

Lydia smiled. “Ask me about it later, then.”

“So,” Rob said. “Are we ready to go downstairs and deal with Jack?”

“I don’t know,” Nancy said. She almost seemed to shrink into her over-sized sweater as she frowned deeply with worry.

“Come on, Nance,” Lydia said. “We’ve come this far and if we don’t do this, then nobody will. Maybe nobody can.”

“She’s right,” Rob said. “Nobody is going to believe us about the demons. Believe me.”

“Alright,” Nancy said. She sighed and then took a deep breath. “Let’s get this over with.”

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Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 2

October 14, 2017

Aftershocks 2

The hotel was in a run-down part of town, probably perfect for hiding the murders of people less likely to be missed by a loved one. It looked like it was frequented by tourists looking for a bargain, maybe even people flying in to deal business in the old financial district fifteen blocks away. Whatever the case was, it looked like any other non-chain hotel that Lydia and Nancy had ever seen. It looked like it was an alright place to crash after a night on the town or a day in the boardroom. There was even a sign on the door advertising free wifi which looked like it was a new addition.

They took Rob’s car but only because of the trunk full of weapons, otherwise Lydia wanted to take a cab or rideshare or something. When you have dealt with demons and demon ghosts, dealing with an Uber driver suddenly felt easier. Lydia insisted on driving because she actually had a legitimate driver’s license and the thought of riding in the car while Rob drove made her nervous. It was a strange place to be in when she was more worried about a car accident than facing down a deadly demon.

“Will you teach me to drive?” Nancy asked. It shook Lydia from her thoughts.

“What?” Lydia asked.

“I don’t have my license yet and I want to learn how to drive,” Nancy said. She was curled up into a ball on the passenger seat, hugging her knees. She was staring straight ahead.

“I can teach you,” Rob offered from the back seat. He had grumbled at having to sit in the back seat of his own car but had finally relented when Lydia pressed the issue.

“No,” Lydia said. “Not you. You keep forgetting that you are younger than us. You should not be driving this thing. If we’re going to be partners, I’ll do the driving unless it’s an emergency. We can’t risk getting the car pulled over by a cop. They might search it.”

“Besides, we wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, Rob,” Nancy said.

“Fine,” Rob said and went back to putting guns from the trunk hatch into his duffel bag.

They pulled into the parking lot and walked toward the hotel. Lydia was a little bit surprised that the sliding door just opened so readily for them. When it did, they were hit with the air-conditioning and also the specific chemical smell of bleach. All three of them looked at each other and they stepped into the lobby. It was absolutely empty. When they were not looking, somebody must have come to the front desk from the office. Lydia saw that he had a neutral face which suddenly turned into a practiced smiled, a move known to all in the retail or service industry. He was obviously taking in the well-armed teenagers and preteen.

“Can I help you?” The man asked. His nametag said Grady but Lydia was not sure if that was a first or a last name.

“We would like to speak to the manager,” Lydia said calmly.

“I am sure I can help you and we do not need the manager,” Grady said. “Shouldn’t you be off at some school function?”

Lydia drew her sword from is scabbard. “We know about Jack, Grady. We’re here to stop him.”

“Don’t pull any tricks,” Nancy said and put on her best tough face.

“I don’t know what tricks I could possibly pull and I don’t know who this Jack is,” Grady said. “You would do well to turn around and go home before I call security to correct this situation.”

Rob pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and fired it directly at Grady. Lydia and Nancy screamed but noticed that Grady was not injured, he just dissipated in the pray from the shotgun. “Salt rounds,” Rob said. “It looks like we have some angry ghosts to deal with.”

“Great,” Lydia said. She ran behind the front desk and found some keys and tossed them to Nancy. “Nance, see if these will lock the front door. We don’t want to be interrupted.”

Nancy went to the front door and the key worked and she locked the sliding doors into place. She pocketed the keys and walked back over to regroup with the others. They checked the office and it was empty. They started down the nearest hallway, Lydia with her sword, Rob with his shotgun and Nancy with a poker that she had pulled from the lobby fireplace.

“Stay close, there’s bound to be more of those ghosts,” Rob said.

“Do I look like I’m afraid of ghosts?” Lydia asked. “Some of my best friends are ghosts.”

“You’re just afraid of one ghost,” Nancy said softly. Lydia shot her a look and Nancy shrugged.

“Not anymore,” Lydia said. “If I see him again, I’ll be ready.”

Nancy yelped as Rob’s shotgun went off again, dissipating another ghost. “I have a feeling that if we get rid of Jack, the ghost stuff might clear up?”

“I hope so,” Rob said. “Otherwise there are ways to get rid of ghosts for good too.”

“Wait, are there guests here?” Nancy asked.

“Not that I saw on my stakeout,” Rob said. “At least not living ones.”

“Then who are they?” Nancy asked as she pointed. She was pointing at a pair of children standing in the middle of the hallway ahead. The two young girls were identical with sunken eyes and plain dresses and looked absolutely out of place. As they were noticed by the heroic trio, their dead eyes seemed to come to life a little bit.

“Come play with us,” the girls said in unison.

“That’s super creepy,” Nancy said. “What do we do?”

Rob pointed his shotgun and fired and the little girls screamed as their bodies dissipated just like the other ghosts.

“Were you a hundred percent sure that they were ghosts?” Lydia asked.

“Ninety-seven percent. Maybe Ninety-six,” Rob said and shrugged.

“OK,” Nancy said. “That’s slightly less homicidal then, kiddo.”

“But only slightly,” Lydia said.

At the end of the hallway, there was suddenly a rumbling noise that started to get louder and louder. Rob aimed his shotgun until it was clear that whatever it was would not be bothered by salt fired from a shotgun.

“I think you pissed it off,” Lydia said.

The elevator doors slid open and thousands of gallons poured out of the elevator. After that first wave, what looked like millions of gallons started to pour, rushing down the hallway towards them. For a moment, all three of them stood there with their eyes wide. Nancy started to run in the opposite direction down the hallway. Lydia punched Rob in the shoulder.

“Run!” She yelled.

Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 1

October 7, 2017

Aftershocks 2

Lydia and Nancy decided to skip the Principal’s office since he had phrased it as optional. In fact, as weeks went by, they continued to give the principal’s office a wide berth. It was all too complicated at the moment and they still did not know who to trust. After they had defeated the demon Ley, the two girls hoped that things would calm down and stay calm. So far, they were half right but neither of them believed that it would stay that way for long. Ley had talked about the King of Demons being interested in them and Nancy’s heritage probably made her specifically the target. The two of them tried to do as much normal teenage stuff as they could but it never quite washed away the memories of what had happened in the gym weeks ago.

The normal stuff went out the window when they left their last class of the day and found Rob sitting on the curb, eating a piece of key lime pie. He was wearing the same over-sized trenchcoat but was not openly carrying any weapons this time. In the light of day, the pint-sized monster hunter looked a little funny. However, both of the girls recalled that the boy had powers possibly on par with Nancy’s undefined abilities. He was potentially dangerous but he seemed to be on the side of the angels for now.

“Hey kiddo,” Nancy said. “No car today?”

“I have it stashed away,” Rob said without looking up from the pie. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his coat. “I don’t drive it all the time.”

“Smart,” Lydia said with a tiny smirk. “It’s still years before anyone will issue you a license, kid.”

“My name is Rob,” He said. There was no frustration or anger in the words, just a simple reminder of the facts at hand.

“Alright,” Nancy said. She was back to being her usual sunny self but that facade was wearing at the edges in the face of a reminder of a very bad night. “What can we do for you, Rob?”

“Yeah, we actually have homework to do,” Lydia said.

“I wanted to talk to you both after the heat died down,” He said.

“Well, it feels like it’s dead as a doornail now,” Lydia said. “Did you want your sword back?”

“No, that’s alright,” He said. “I just wanted to talk.”

“I’m not sure I’m interested, Rob,” Nancy said. She was hugging herself so hard that Lydia feared her arms might start wrapping around her a few too many times.

“Let’s hear him out, Nance,” Lydia said. “He helped us out. It’s not like we owe him but so far he’s been alright to us.”

“Fine,” Nancy said. “Lead the way.”

Rob stood and tossed an empty pie tin into the garbage and wiped his mouth with his coat again. He led them down the street and into the public park. He led them into the woods where they stood in front of a metal door hidden under a rocky outcropping.

“Nice secret murder dungeon you have here,” Lydia said.

Rob gave her a look. “It’s just one of my mom and dad’s old bunkers. My family likes bunkers.” He shrugged and pulled out a key and unlocked the door. He walked inside, leaving the door open. Nancy and Lydia looked at each other for a moment before going in. How bad could it be? They stepped inside.

The interior of the bunker was actually pretty nice. There were couches and tables and chairs and rugs. When Rob reached over to the light switch, the lights actually came on so he had somehow gotten working electricity in the woods of a public park. Lydia was impressed, Nancy was absolutely confused. Rob kept walking, moving past what looked like a makeshift kitchen with a fridge. He sat down at a table which already had two chairs set up on the opposite side. It was weird to see somebody younger look so professional.

Nancy and Lydia carefully sat down in the chairs opposite Rob. “So tell me what your deal is?” He asked.

“We’re high schoolers,” Lydia said. “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

“I’m a dream demon’s daughter and she almost married a ghost!” Nancy blurted out.

“Nancy!” Lydia yelped in surprise. “Why did you just tell a stranger that!”

“Almost married a ghost?” Rob asked.

“He was trying to escape the afterlife. It was gross. I’d rather not say his name. Why did I just say that?” Lydia asked.

Rob simply smiled and turned toward Nancy. “A dream demon?”

“He’s really nasty and now I’m afraid I might be a demon too,” Nancy said.

“You’re not. Otherwise, you would be affected by the circle you’re sitting in and not just the truth glyphs that my uncle carved into those chairs. That’s why you spilled the beans,” he said.

“That’s a dirty trick,” Lydia said. Her eyes narrowed.

“My family has a long history of getting crossed by demons and other supernatural surprises,” He said. “If we’re going to work together then I have to know what’s up.”

“Alright,” Lydia said. “I can respect that. So what’s your deal?”

“Yeah!” Nancy said. “We spilled the beans. Your turn.”

“I hunt things that hunt humans just like my family before me,” Rob said. “I’m alone but all the stories I’ve been told say things just work out better together.”

“Together?” Nancy asked. “What do you have in mind?”

“Yeah,” Lydia said. “We’re not agreeing to just anything.”

“After we got rid of Ley together, other problems have started to pop up. There are signs of other demons. The three of us are the ones to shut them down. We have the experience and the power,” he said.

“How do you know so much about demons?” Nancy asked.

“My family studied them. Also, they fought them directly,” He said. “A lot of the ancient demons are dead thanks to my family or people like them. But demons get created every day and some of the new ones have become just as powerful as the old ones. Ley was barely anything compared to these assholes.”

“So who are we going after then?” Lydia asked. “Which nasty thing?”

“They call him Jack,” Rob said. “He’s a demon of madness which makes him a loose cannon. He’s killed a dozen before I noticed but he’ll only get worse.”

“We have to help, Lyds,” Nancy said. She turned to give Lydia her best puppy eyes.

Lydia looked back at her best friend and fellow outcast. With her oversized sweater and her innocent smile, Lydia was weak to all of that. “Fine. We should use our experiences to do good in the world. Where do we find this Jack?”

“I’ve tracked him down to a hotel,” Rob said.

Bron: Neverwinter Arrival

September 25, 2017

It had been a long trip from where Bron’s tribe roamed to the outskirts of Neverwinter. Bron found himself hesitating to check out the city. The thought of it was a bit overwhelming. Bron had been pretty careful to avoid civilization up until that point. The tribe had rarely been in towns before, preferring the wide open spaces and the freedom that lifestyle provided. The humans and dwarves and little folk towns he had seen had only been during attacks. Bron had been in orc towns on a few occasions and one goblin settlement to guard his tribe’s trade delegation. It was not a pleasant experience but nothing was really pleasant back then.

The Noonday Witch had told him to go West and this was the end of the west as far as Bron knew. Even if it was not, he did not know anything about boats and did not want to get on one. He did not know what to do about a city. What few thoughts he could manage were so tied up in that problem that he failed to notice the guard approaching him.

“Hey there, big fella,” the guard said. The man had a wary but amused look on his face. Bron immediately enjoyed the man’s apprehension. “Why are you staring at the city of Neverwinter? I guess glaring would be a better word, actually.”

“Is there a law against that?” Bron asked.

“No,” the guard said. “I don’t suppose there is but it will make people nervous. We get a lot of visitors walking past here and most of them are relatively clothed and clean.”

“I will go in when I am ready.”

“Do you need somebody to hold your hand?” The guard asked with a smile.

Bron narrowed his eyes. “I am Bron. I am scared of nothing.”

“Good,” the guard said. “The gates are open. My name is Aroc Blackstone. You behave yourself, alright?”

Bron was so taken aback by his manner of speaking that he simply just started walking past the man. He did not care who this little man was, Bron would show that he was not afraid. Bron had truly feared little in his life beyond the dark power of the warlock who lead his tribe. And even then, anger could be so much more powerful than fear. He walked through the gates and although he got a few second glances, nobody moved to stop him. He thought there would be several people trying to repel him. He had been raised to be the enemy and yet a lot of people paid him no mind.

He walked down the streets and saw all sorts of new things. His senses were in overdrive as he looked around. There were vendors shouting for people to buy their wares. There were all sorts of exotic looking people. Bron almost bumped into a Dragonborn woman. The woman did not apologize and neither did Bron, they simply stared at each other. If she was waiting for an apology, she would be waiting forever. She finally stepped aside and walked on her way and Bron walked on his. That was the first Dragonborn that Bron had ever seen. It was strange and Bron wanted to fight one immediately.

He continued to walk down the street. He saw men and women creeping in alleyways. He saw women hanging in doorways, calling out to men. He saw warriors, heavily armored and carrying gleaming weapons. He saw temples for the first time. People honoring gods outside of Gruumsh. There were the smells of good food and fresh ale. It was all so interesting. Bron had little experience with all of it.

“Where are you headed to?” A dwarf asked from the open door of an inn. For the second time, Bron had been caught off guard.

“My business,” Bron said. He started to walk

“Where are the rest of your clothes?” The dwarf asked, spitting on the street to punctuate the sentence.

“What clothes?” Bron asked.

“You’re as dumb as you are ugly, aren’t you?” The dwarf asked, narrowing his eyes.

Bron grunted. “I don’t care about thinking,”

“Alright. I’ll try not to tax you. There will be no thinking necessary,” The Dwarf said. “How about a job? A place of your own?”

“A place of my own?” Bron asked. He had never owned anything besides his weapons and the food he hunted or took by force. The thought of his own territory no matter how small was an appealing thought. He could start to make a name for himself here. He could show his strength and earn the respect or fear of those around him. Through those two emotions, he could earn power. Power to do as he wished. The look in his eye grew far too excited and he could sense the dwarf move a little nervously, a little bit of doubt creeping in.

“There is a room upstairs. Unfurnished. I don’t suppose you need any furniture, though. You can stay here if you work for me as a bouncer,” the Dwarf said.

“A bouncer?” Bron asked. “What is that? Is it a kind of warrior?”

“You stand near the door. Anybody who is inside that I want outside, you make that happen,” The Dwarf said. “Anybody who is outside who I want to stay outside, you also make that happen. You exert my will on other people.”

“Will there be fights?” Bron asked with a smile.

“Sure,” the Dwarf said. “As much as you can handle and all the ale you can drink as long as you’re still standing enough to do your job.”

Sabin the IV

September 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redcross Pt. 10

September 9, 2017

Redcross

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

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

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

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

“Is everybody alright?” Sarah called out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Symbol Pt. 2

September 1, 2017

“You!” Victoria yelled out as she jumped from the stool she was sitting on and backed up. She slipped some iron knuckles onto her hand. She stroked some runes along it and it suddenly blazed with a bright white light and there was a crackling sound in the air. She also ripped her blouse from her shoulder and placed her palm on the family protection symbol.

“Whoa!” Solantria yelled out. “I mean you no harm!” Her eyes looked panicked for a moment but her face slowly calmed and a warm, charismatic smile formed on her lips. The words made no sense but they did sound nice to Victoria’s ears. Almost comforting.

Victoria shook her head. “Bullshit!” She went to take a swing at the demon with her blazing white fist. Solantria barely stepped back and out of the way.

“I swear it, Victoria,” Solantria said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to prove it to you.” She had her hands up in her best attempt at placating Victoria.

“You killed six of my family members!” Victoria yelled out. She poured will into the symbol on her shoulder.

“Oh shit,” Solantria said before she was repelled and she hurtled out through the door and tumbled into the street. She got up and steadied herself before taking a breath and counting to three. She calmly walked back into the tavern. “That was well over two centuries ago. I think it’s almost three. I’ve changed.”

“The Heathrow family will never forgive you for those deaths,” Victoria said. “I will use everything in my power to end you.”

“Um, I’m immortal,” Solantria said with a smile. She still had her hands up.

“Then I’ll do what I can to make this a very bad night for you,” Victoria said, her eyes narrowing.

“I need your help,” Solantria said. There was a long silence. Very carefully, she reached over and grabbed her glass of whiskey from the bar and downed the whole thing. She kept her eyes on Victoria the whole time.

After a few moments of stunned silence, Victoria actually started laughing despite how angry and afraid she was. “You need my help?” She asked. “You know what I say to that? Suffer.”

“I need your help to save the world,” Solantria said. She sat back on the stool and poured herself another glass of whiskey. Another confused and stunned silence came after that statement. Victoria’s brain seemed to halt for a moment or two.

“What?” Victoria asked finally.

“I need you to save the world. With me,” Solantria said. She sipped her whiskey and smiled. “It’s kind of imperative at this point. It’s also getting rather urgent.”

“I don’t believe you and, even if I did, why would a thing like you want to save the world?” Victoria asked. “Everybody knows demons live in one of the Hells. Just go home.”

“Have you ever been to Hell?” Solantria asked. “It’s brutal and boring. Brutally boring. Besides, I’ve grown quite fond of this world over the last century. I have my reasons for wanting to save it.”

Victoria scoffed at that. “My family’s greatest enemy is asking for trust and yet it keeps secrets. It’s almost funny.”

“Can you not call me an ‘it’?” Solantria said with a pout. “I may be a demon but I am all woman.” She punctuated that with another sip of her whiskey.

“Tell me your secrets,” Victoria said, completely unamused. She still had her hand on the family symbol, ready to repel the demon again and again.

“All of them?” Solantria asked and then tilted her head back to let out a laugh. “That would take more time than we have. More to the point, after the sordid business with your family ended with my humiliation, I would not dare show my face in any Hell. After a decade, I left my grudge against your family behind me and started to explore this world. For once, my focus was not on the deal but was instead on pure exploration. I had a lot of fun. I grew attached to this world. I changed.”

“Wait,” Victoria said. “You don’t want to kill my family?”

“Did you notice I haven’t shown your kin my face for a long time?” Solantria asked. “It’s not just because of that symbol. Oh and nice tattoo by the way. It is because I decided to drop the issue. Neither side was blameless but I definitely overreacted. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Victoria asked. “My parents raised me with stories about how you might come back one day. I had to sleep with the light on until I was fourteen. I had nightmares. Actually, I still have nightmares. And you’re sorry?”

Solantria looked embarrassed and said weakly. “I’m very sorry? I had no idea how badly I had affected you. Maybe even ‘infected’ would be a better word. I really am sorry for that. I was born among beings with no conscience. In fact, the one I have grown is still pretty new to me. What can I do to make it up to you?”

“Nothing can be done now,” Victoria said and then she sighed and took off her spectacles. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes for a moment. She replaced her glasses and eyed the demon quizzically. The immortal centuries must have been rough on Solantria, she did not look as majestic as Victoria had imagined. She just looked more ordinary than Victoria had always imagined after studying the sketches her ancestors had drawn. “However, you said earlier that you need my help to save the world.”

“Yes!” Solantria said excitedly, a dazzling smile forming on her face for a moment before she turned it down a few notches. “I consulted with a seer who told me that I needed to go to Heathrow’s Victory to start my quest and here you are. Victoria/Victory. Get it?”

“I get it. I’m recognized by several academies and universities as a very intelligent woman so I definitely get the not so subtle wordplay there,” Victoria said.

“Will you help me?” Solantria asked. She looked hopeful and sincere to Victoria.

“I don’t think I could ever help you,” Victoria said. “However, I may be willing to help our world.” She paused and looked around. “Wait, did you do something to my bartender friend?” She looked suspiciously at Solantria.

“Oh, of course not,” Solantria said. She pulled a small stone out that kind of looked like the top of a sundial. “The enchantment on this stops time for those I choose. I gave him a break.”

“Unfreeze him,” Victoria said. “Unfreeze him and I will consider your proposal. Meet me at my apartment tomorrow afternoon.”

Solantria smiled and pulled out a small cloth bag and set it on the bar and it made a little jingling sound. “For the whiskey.” Then she held out the little stone sun dial. “And this as a sign of good faith.” She put the stone on the bar next to Victoria and walked out of the tavern.

“Here’s your sausage, Victoria,” <> said with a smile and set down the plate.

Victoria swept the stone off of the bar and then pocketed it. She took a sip from her glass of whiskey. She did her best to cover up her shoulder quickly. “Thank you, so much.”

“What happened out here?” He asked.

“Just somebody with sticky fingers,” Victoria said. “I encouraged her to pay up.”

“Are you alright?” He asked, a concerned look on his face.

Victoria took another sip of whiskey, eyeing the empty glass still on the bar. “I will be.”

The Symbol

August 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You!” Victoria yelled.

Bron: Past and Present

August 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 10

August 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

“Who are you?” One of the cops asked.

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

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

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

“The police saw us!” Natia shouted.

“Calm down, Natia,” Kelsey said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A clown?” Arafina asked.

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

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

“Like this, right?” She asked.

“Exactly!” Kelsey said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Communication is key,” Lennon said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I try,” Margaret said with a smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret nodded and smiled. “See you tomorrow.”

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

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


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