Posts Tagged ‘William’

When It All Ended Pt. 13

June 30, 2018

One by one, Morgan’s Raiders stepped out of Percival’s mystical mansion. They were prepared for battle and as geared up as they were going to get. As always, Morgan Moonglow took the lead and came out first, her eyes darting to and fro, always checking for threats. She was wearing hide armor that had been crafted and enchanted by her formerly estranged mother, Irina. It had been made of the skin of the great Questing Beast which Morgan had hunted and felled all by herself. It meant more to her than the pressed leather she had worn in the service and through much of their early adventures. She carried two swords from the crypt of Alander the Great in crossed scabbards on her back. She rarely got in close but it was good to have the option. Lastly, she had the same longbow she had graduated school with. However, the thing had been fundamentally changed when it was exposed to the blood of the Questing Beast. It was more powerful now and a comfort for Morgan to hold.

When she stepped out of the mansion, she saw Amien standing with his equally scruffy pack. He was smiling at her in the sunlight with those crystal blue eyes and for the briefest moment her heart fluttered but she shook it off. There was a moment in time, maybe several moments, when she would have ended up with Amien. He was a werewolf who lived in the woods, she was a ranger who often did the same. There were a lot of similarities between their wild hearts and Morgan knew that Amien had seen that too. She could see in his eyes the arrogance of an alpha wolf who thought it was only a matter of time. However, he did not know the stubborn streak of a Moonglow. Instead of running to the wolf, she turned and smiled as she looked behind her.

Percival Stardane stepped through the door next with a big smile and a flourish. He was dressed to the nines as usual which was hardly practical for battle. Percy never seemed to care as old habits died hard. Besides that, Percy claimed that dressing up created confidence in bystanders and that showmanship could tilt the battle in their favor. He was not one for weapons but Morgan had forced him to carry a short sword on his back, partly obscured by a half cape. On the scabbard of that sword, Percy had painted the opening notes of his father’s signature song. He never followed in his father’s footsteps with a singing career but instead, he had embraced knowledge and created a new path for himself. He also had a bunch of trinkets and daggers hidden on his person which Garth had helped him arrange and design. Close at his hip was his favorite book, a book of Elorian folktales. On his feet, he wore blink boots which enabled easy escapes.

William Havelock stepped through the door next in full plate armor. He currently had his helmet off so that he could make a good impression as Percy had insisted. Cassandra had enchanted the whole set of armor to be collapsible at a moment’s notice. It was an intricate enchantment but it allowed William to be ready for battle at a moment’s notice. It was imprinted with the sign of the lion, like back home in Shura. However, he had altered it to fit him personally by removing any other reference to Shura. He often longed for his homeland but he no longer truly needed to return. He had found a new family in Eloria and they always had his back. He had several javelins in a sling on his back but his prize possession was the great sword on his back. It was constantly cold and its blade froze whatever it slashed at. He was not a great magician but he was grateful to have a little magic in his hand.

Cassandra Oakspring stepped out of the mansion next and her ginger red hair was tied up close to her head. When you dealt with magic, it was smart to not have anything dangling that could catch fire while spells were being thrown around. Her robes were finely crafted with magical runes embroidered into it with silvered thread. There was a barely visible purple aura which was her mage armor spell which kept her safer. She held her book of spells in her hands knowing full well that she had no time to reference it during a battle but, like Percy, she prized knowledge and carried it with her as a totem. She also carried a magical bag of components for her spells. She had a few ings on one hand which periodically glinted with magic power. Since she was planning to be in a fight on the roof, she had worn some boots of levitation. She also had the jar that held their djinn inside of it.

Garth Whispernight came out next like a walking shadow. He had black leather armor on and that armor had a chameleon enchantment on it to allow it to easily change colors. When he turned it black that meant it was time for business. He had the same enchantment on his displacer cloak which often made Garth look fuzzy or out of focus to their enemies. He had the hood on that cloak up and he had taken pitch and smeared it across his eyes which he had explained was a Kofrani style that just happened to compliment his sneaky profession. If one were to search him, they would never find the daggers he had secreted all over his person. Each dagger was enchanted and balanced for throwing. Each dagger had its purpose and he could pull off some amazing tricks by combining their attacks together. To complete his gear, he had dusted off his old boots of haste which felt like constantly having lightning run through him.

Lastly, Galath Wyndham stepped through the door and the door vanished behind him. Galath was wearing brand new armor, imprinted with the symbols of both Pelor and Lathander. He had finally replaced his somewhat ancient armor after it had been damaged in their previous adventure. He has been stubborn about keeping the armor that had been turned to stone so long ago. Galath had been very sentimental about all of his gear since it was one of the only connections he still had to the era of his birth. In fact, he had carried the same mace until they had adventured with Carania Galdon again and she gifted him with a new one. He had spent a lot of time blessing that new weapon in the proper ways. He had also tied a few raven feathers to the handle and he carried it proudly in her honor. Galath was not one for much else in the way of gear, relying on his faith instead.

As soon as the whole team was out of the mansion, Morgan quickly took stock of what they had and saw that everybody was ready. There was just one more part of the plan to set in motion. She turned to Cassandra.

“Contact the princess.”

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When It All Ended Pt. 12

May 12, 2018

In the morning, Cassandra was sitting at the table near the kitchen by herself first. She was pretty much the only morning person of the group. She had the jar holding Monela sitting on the table in front of her, next to the eggs and sausage she had summoned from thin air. Galath and William came down the stairs together next. They both eyed the jar warily but sat down and food and drink were put in front of them. None of the three chose to talk just yet. Morgan and Percival came down next and they looked rested and in good spirits. Sensing the mood, even the usually verbose Percy stayed quiet while he started to eat his breakfast.

The group expected Garth last but first Clio glided down the stairs with a big smile on her face. As they all stared in surprise, she walked over to the table and grabbed a handful of eggs and shoved them into her mouth before walking out of the mansion through the front door. Everyone’s gaze was drawn to the top of the stairs where Garth had just awkwardly coughed before descending the stairs. He walked down and sat at the table with everyone and took hold of a magically conjured chalice and drank deeply of the juice it held. There was a very pregnant pause as everyone tried not to stare at him.

Garth started to eat as if nothing had happened but he was the first one to break. “Alright, yes. I shared a night of passion with the faerie woman.”

William grinned. “And how was it? Are you intact?” Many of the group stifled a laugh at that.

“I am in peak condition,” Garth said. “Ready to face danger.”

“How was it?” Percy asked. Morgan elbowed him in the ribs gently and he gave her an apologetic look.

“Unforgettable,” Garth said. “I’m really not interested in kissing and telling. I know I would normally boast and share all of the gory details but this is a woman who could literally tear out my spine. The good news is that she has agreed to assist us today. She is actually itching to get her hands dirty.”

“Didn’t she do that last night?” Percy asked which earned him another elbow from Morgan but pretty much everybody laughed, even Garth.

“That’s good news,” Morgan said. “We’re welcome to have her and, of course, Cassandra has enlisted the djinn Monela. Thank you, Cassandra, and thank you Monela. You will be released from that jar soon enough. Percival and I also enlisted the assistance of Amien’s wolfpack.”

“And you’re alright with that, Percy?” Galath asked, half-joking and half-concerned.

“We need all hands on deck for this one,” Percy said. “After this, Amien can ride or run off into the sunset and I’ll never have to see him again.”

“Or he could die in battle,” Garth added helpfully.

“Nobody is dying today,” Morgan said. “We are going to take out this dragon together.”

“Agreed,” William said. “I’ve never known a better group of adventurers than Morgan’s Raiders. In truth, I have never known a better group of people.”

“I’d still be alone at the academy if it weren’t for all of you,” Cassandra said.

“I would still be petrified in the middle of the forest,” Galath said.

“I’d still be a mere sellsword,” William said.

“I’d probably be locked up somewhere,” Garth said.

“There’s still time for that,” William said and everybody laughed again.

“And I’d still be puttering around that library,” Percy said. He and Morgan paused for a kiss.

“I’m proud of you all,” Morgan said. “You have saved the day with me several times over. We saved the world together when we barely knew each other. Now that we’re a family, we’re unstoppable. If it was any other group, I don’t think I would be leading them into the capital of my homeland to fight a dragon.”

“So what’s the plan?” Galath asked. Galath had always gotten to the point fairly quickly. One kind of expected a cleric to hold patience as one of their virtues but his directness had saved lives before. Although he was a healer, he never claimed to be a doctor so he was never worried about his bedside manner.

“Right,” Morgan said. “Let’s get to it.” She smiled and mentally composed the bullet points in her head. “The guard, Amien’s pack, Clio, and Monela will go in first and engage the dragon’s hangers-on. If the dragon chooses to engage at that point, then we will spring into action. Otherwise, we will head directly to the palace roof. Hopefully, Princess Cora will lure the dragon to the roof and we will fight it there. If not, we will have to confront it inside the castle which is less than ideal. After we take down the dragon, we help finish off any lizardmen or wyverns left over. This is our show so we’ll start and finish the fight. Any questions?”

“What’s our strategy when fighting the dragon?” Percy asked.

“I’m thinking it’s the same as when we fought that beholder that one time,” Morgan said.

Cassandra had a photographic memory and was a perpetual student so she felt compelled to speak. “William stays in the dragon’s face while you hit it with arrows from a distance. I hang back just in range and hit it with spells and try to disable it. Percy and Galath also hang back to heal and do what they can. Garth will be sneaky and look for openings to attack. If somebody falls, we get them up and keep going.”

“Exactly,” Morgan said. “And this breakfast you just fed us is our hero’s feast, right?”

“Yes,” Cassandra said. “I used my last chalice to summon it.”

“I was wondering why I suddenly felt braver,” Percy said.

“I suppose all that’s left is to go out and greet the day?” Garth asked.

“Yes,” William said. “Which means you’ll have to see your Clio again.”

“She’s not my Clio…,” Garth said as they got up from the table. The table and all of the food vanished as they did and Cassandra grabbed her jar before it could clatter to the floor. Morgan and Percy were last out of the door and they both looked back at their home and then at each other before going out to meet the day.

When it All Ended Pt. 10

March 24, 2018

“What are you all talking about?” Cassandra asked from the top of the stairs. She had left the flask containing the djinn on her bedside table. She would release her in the morning when it was marginally safer. Besides, she had a feeling the djinn would either wreck the mansion or get them all drunk if given the chance. Messing about with spirits was dangerous but unleashing mischief onto the world definitely topped the dragon making the capital of Eloria its lair.

“We were just talking allies, Ms. Oakspring,” Galath said. “Even after all our travels the allies we can call on are running short.”

“Once again, Galath,” Cassandra said. “You can call us by our first names. I think you’ve earned being informal with us.”

“I think I am just more comfortable calling you by your surnames,” Galath said. “I suppose I like knowing that you are all somehow linked to my past.”

“Go on and speak how you will speak, Galath,” William said. “Either way, you stand by our side and that’s all that matters to me.” Garth and Cassandra both nodded and each agreed with that sentiment. Cassandra stepped behind the bar, amidst the unseen servants and sat facing the three men.

“Speaking of allies,” Garth said. “How did things go on your end?”

“I spoke to Princess Cora briefly and she is keeping the dragon busy for now,” Cassandra said. “I don’t know how long she’ll last.”

“As far as I know,” William said. “the Royal family does not have as much prowess when it comes to battle. It must be hard to be helpless against a dragon in your home.”

“Only mostly helpless,” Cassandra said. “I kind of know the Princess. I met her once back at New Moon. She showed signs of magical ability but if she pursued that, it was with private tutors.”

“Besides that,” Garth said. “I’ve heard that the royals are actually pretty smart and capable.”

“Oh Pelor,” Galath said. “did you case the royal palace at one point?”

“I will neither confirm or deny it,” Garth said, looking side to side. “I will say that they do have a lot of nice things and even one artifact would probably set me up for life.”

“No stealing while we’re there tomorrow,” Cassandra said. “Anyway, the Princess will try to get the beast up onto the roof. It’s big and flat and will give us more space to face the dragon.” All three men started to think of what they could do and what they had to do on that roof, strategizing based on their abilities.

“And what of the djinn,” Galath asked. “Will she help us?”

“She has agreed to help us,” Cassandra said. “I know it’s foolish to fully trust a djinn but I feel like it’s worth the risk and Morgan and Percy agreed.”

“Well, I trust you,” William said. “That’s all that matters.”

“Yes,” Galath said. “I have complete faith in you.”

Garth shrugged. “Sometimes you have to work with a trickster.” He grinned.

Cassandra smiled in thanks.

“Well,” William said. “I hardly think we need the help. We’re a great fighting force. We’re Moonglow’s Raiders and I have never seen anybody as powerful as we are.”

Cassandra had a sudden thought. “Hey trickster,” she said. “I just thought of somebody that you could possibly contact.”

“Me?” Garth asked. “All my old friends are back in Kofrain and, besides you all, I have nothing but enemies in Eloria.” He paused and thought for a moment. “And Shura and Treles and Ascines and I really carved a path, didn’t I? I’m really drawing a blank here Cassandra. You’re going to have to give me a hint at least.”

“Well,” she said. “The ally wouldn’t be in any of those places. The ally would be in the feywild.”

“Oh no,” Garth said. “Not her.” He slid off of his stool and started to walk away.

They all turned to watch him. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Garth,” Cassandra said. “but tomorrow is going to be really hard on everyone. I want all of us to survive. I want as much of the Guard as possible to survive.”

“We need all hands on deck, Garth,” William said with all seriousness in his eyes. “She wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

“I know,” Garth said without turning around. His shoulders slumped and he sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“What are you afraid of?” Cassandra asked. If it had not been her who asked, if it had been William, the question might have made him angry. Cassandra was just so good at reading people, like the books she was so fond of.

“She is a being of the feywild,” Garth said. “they’re not like us. They’re dangerous.”

“It’s not like she wants to eat you,” Galath said. William and Cassandra laughed a little at that.

“She might,” Garth said and that ended the laughter. “I just don’t know. I know that she had a hungry look in her eyes and I just don’t know what she was hungry for. With other girls, I had an idea before I pulled them close. This is uncharted territory.”

“We will not force you, my friend,” William said. “It is enough to have you by our side in the battle tomorrow.”

Garth sighed. “I hate that I’m not the fearless force that you all know and love.”

“Love is a little strong,” William said but it was said calmly. “There is a very clear line between bravery and foolishness.”

“I was just teasing you about you know who,” Cassandra said. “You have a good point. She could be very dangerous. She is Fey, not mortal like us.”

There was a long silence. “I think I’ll turn in,” Garth said. “We have a big day ahead of us and you know how I get if I drink too much.”

William smiled. “Drink too much? I’ve never seen it happen myself.”

“I’m very good at hiding,” Garth said with a smile and he headed up the stairs. The three remaining looked at each other worriedly.

When It All Ended Pt. 9

March 17, 2018

William Havelock and Garth Whispernight were sitting at the bar downstairs. During his exile from his homeland, William had learned to really enjoy a good tavern. There was usually fellowship, decent ale, and there was the possibility of a good brawl breaking out. William had earned his title when he was knighted. He did not come from nobility but he had instead made a name for himself in the tourneys all over Shera. He had fought threats to the land alongside prissy rich boys and girls and gained fame through hard work and bravery. However, it was not until he had officially become a full-time adventurer that he had downtime to discover the simple joys of drinking with friends. Of course, there was a time when it looked like William and Garth would never be friends.

Garth had come a long way himself, even farther than Shera. He had fled Kofrain himself when the desert had figuratively gotten too hot. When he had joined the party he would have been the first to admit that he was a scoundrel. He was proud of it. He called himself the world’s greatest thief but he had always done it for fun and not riches. William and Cass had been the ones to finally catch him and Morgan was the one who convinced him to join the group. What started as reluctant do-gooding turned into an exciting thrill ride which in turn led to him being as addicted to saving the day as the others were. The war of words between him and William had grown from animosity to petty fun and finally to real friendship. Garth had turned over a new leaf and while he still did not follow the laws of the land, he definitely used those powers for good.

“You are very quiet over there, Whisper,” William said, setting his mug down. “You also look a little green. You’re not scared are you?”

“Scared?” Garth asked with an incredulous look that had indeed been a look of dread a moment before. “Unlike you, I will never even be seen by the dragon. It won’t know what hit it when I get the killing blow.”

William laughed. “You? I’m sure you meant to say that it will be me who scores the killing blow and I will do it as I look that dragon in the eye. It will know who ended its life.”

“Will you two ever stop arguing?” Galath asked as he walked up and climbed up onto a stool. The older dwarf man had taken off his customary mail and cloak and he looked a lot more casual as a result. The party was used to him being so formal.

“I’m afraid not,” William said. “You and Morgan just might be stuck watching over us forever, old man.” He and Garth smiled at each other, they would be done sniping at each other for a while.

“True,” Galath said. “It’s not as if we’ve been able to unload either of you along the line.”

“We’re hard to get rid of,” Garth said proudly. “But who would want to get rid of a crack thief like me?”

“All of the nobles of Eloria for starters,” Galath said. “Usually I find your bravado a bit tiresome but we need your legendary confidence tomorrow, Whispernight.”

“I keep racking my brain for any more allies we could call on but I am separated from the Knights of Shera and most of the friends I personally made during our adventures are on the front lines,” William said. He reflexively looked over at the sword he carried with its hawk head pommel. He felt a brief guilt that he was not with his fellows in Shera or in the thick of battle with the brave Guard of Eloria. Then he remembered that if he had been, he would not be here to face the dragon and that was strangely comforting.

“Yes,” Galath agreed. “I too have been searching my heart for allies but to no avail.”

“What about Carania, Galath?” Garth asked.

Galath flinched at that. It was not a negative thing but just proof of how much that name affected him. “She would be very effective here but last I heard from her, she was dealing with a problem in the Underdark. Even if she was not down there, she would be on the front lines dealing with the undead that are rumored to be fighting in the war.”

“That’s a shame,” William said. “She really would be helpful even if this kind of strays from her mission from the goddess of death.”

“We all go above and beyond what we are asked to do, Mr. Havelock,” Galath said. “Also, I’ll remind you that she is no grim reaper but is as much a defender of life as she is a defender of death.”

“True,” William said. “I’m sorry for implying anything wrong with the lady. She has done right by us a couple of times now and I just wish she could be here now.”

“So do I,” Galath said. “But I’m sure that we will see her again.”

“I bet you will,” Garth said with an elbow to the dwarf’s ribs. “If you know what I mean.”

Galath coughed and shook his head. “I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” The dwarf took a long sip of his tea, so much that the cup refilled as soon as he set it down. It was a bit of an irregularity for a dwarf to not be a drinker but Galath always wanted a clear head and sometimes drinking just reminded him of the friends he had lost when he had been petrified. He looked around and realized that all three of them were men separated from their original homes. While they were not the same, that thread had tied them together in the midst of a party of adventurers. “You know, maybe you two can go home after this.”

“Maybe I don’t want to go home,” Garth said. “Maybe there’s no real home to go back to.”

“Surely your home did not crumble to dust like mine did,” Galath said. “It is probably still there.”

“Not the structure, Galath,” Garth said. “Maybe I like it here better and maybe this is sort of my family now.”

“Has the thief grown a heart?” William asked with a smirk.

“No!” Garth yelled and then there was an intense silence. “I always had one, I guess.”

“Of course you did,” Galath said. “and I know how you feel. I will never forget the bond we have forged together.”

“Neither will I,” William said. “It is as strong as the vows I took as a knight. Maybe stronger.”

The three men drank to that.

When It All Ended Pt. 2

December 30, 2017

Morgan Moonglow put a hand on Hamm’s shoulder as he fell to his knees and breathed hard, he seemed to be coming down from some sort of panic. She shouted. “Galath!” When the dwarf ran over she spoke again. “Check him out, please.”

“I’d be happy to,” Galath said. “He looks physically alright but mentally… well, we’ll see won’t we?” He pressed his hand to Hamm’s other shoulder and it glowed for a moment and the color returned a bit to Hamm’s cheeks.

“Can you tell us what’s wrong?” Morgan asked. Hamm looked at her helplessly for a moment and then at the five others clustered around. Morgan gave them a look that clearly said to back off.

“I am happy to scout ahead a bit,” William said. He was a big knight in thick, steel armor and Hamm tilted away when he spoke. He ruffled Garth Whispernight’s hair, obviously part of a good-natured rivalry between the halfling and the human. “I’ll take Garth with me. Won’t I, Garth?”

“I guess I could stretch my legs,” Garth said. The way he talked, it sounded like he did not really care much.

Henry whistled for Hengroen and climbed aboard the horse. He rode slowly to allow Garth to keep up. The halfling eyed the horse with some nervousness. That left Galath, Percival Stardane, and Cassandra Oakspring nearby. Galath went back to tend the fire and the cooking he had been doing. Cassandra sat daintily on a log and opened a book. Morgan could see Percy’s eyes give that book an envious look but he stuck by Morgan’s side with a half-smile. She smiled back and turned to the dwarf in front of her who seemed to be coming back to reality.

“Now then,” Morgan said. “Can you tell us what you’re running from? I promise that we can protect you.”

“And we will also believe you,” Percy said. “We have already seen some crazy shit.” He smiled warmly at the man and Hamm couldn’t help but smile back.

“Well, I only saw it for a moment but I swore it saw me and it killed Moira and who knows how many others,” Hamm said. He realized he was still holding the satchel of firewood over his shoulder and he put it down.

“Yes, but what was it?” Morgan asked. The question was kind but firm. She had softened some working alongside her team but that ranger training was ingrained and kept her on task.

“A dragon!” Hamm blurted out. “A green dragon.”

“A dragon!?” Percival said loudly. There was something between fear and excitement in his eyes. Cassandra’s eyes went wide over on the log and her back went absolutely straight. “There hasn’t been a dragon sighting in Eloria for the past two years or so. A green dragon is even rarer. Hmm.” Cassandra was staring into space, seemingly doing the related calculations already.

“It had to be a dragon,” Hamm said. “It couldn’t be anything else.”

“As I said, we believe you, friend,” Percival said. “Besides that, there is no mistaking a dragon for anything else. The green ones are especially vibrant and easily recognized at a distance even by the yokelest of yokels.” Morgan reached over and physically covered his mouth before he could say any more.

“Where is the dragon?” Morgan asked with urgency. She had just let two of her people scout ahead and she was now doubting that decision just a little bit. She knew that William and Garth could take care of themselves but a dragon was a dragon.

“It’s in the capital,” Hamm managed. He was very tired even with Galath’s healing and it almost physically hurt to think back to what he saw.

“The capital?” Morgan asked, her eyes going wide a bit. “That’s about five miles from here.”

“Is it?” Hamm asked, blinking at that realization. He felt a bit safer with that knowledge but also completely out of place.

“And you were there earlier today?” Morgan asked. “That’s quite some run, um, sorry what was your name?”

“Hamm Stoutfire, at your service,” He said. “I owned a shop in the merchant’s district. Well, I guess I still own it if it was not destroyed.”

“I hope it’s still intact,” Morgan said. “Cassandra, please summon the boys back here. We need to gear up and ride on. We might be the only adventurers in the area capable of taking care of this.” Cassandra pressed a finger to her ear. It was an unnecessary gesture that usually signified that she was using a sending spell.

“You’re going to fight it!?” Hamm shouted, his eyes tinged with panic again.

“We’re going to try,” Morgan said.

“Really, it’s lucky we were in the area,” Percy said, pushing Morgan’s hand from his mouth. “We were dealing with a bit of business with some hags and a prophecy and funny enough we ended up fighting a newly minted vampire lord that some other country had dumped here. So we were just riding away from all of that when we met you. See? Lucky.”

“I could do with less of that kind of luck,” Galath said. “You’re never lucky to meet a dragon.”

Morgan covered Percy’s mouth again and gave him a pointed look. “Mr. Stoutfire does not need to know all of our business,” she said. She turned her gaze back toward Hamm. “You have been very kind to give us this information. We will be riding on to the capital. Do you have somewhere safe to go in the meantime?”

“I think I still have a cousin in Stoneswallow near here,” Hamm said. “Besides, it might be better to be underground right now.”

“Probably a good call,” Galath said. “And yet.”

Morgan shot him a look and he smiled and shrugged. He was already carrying over a bit of sausage and bread which he handed to Hamm along with what seemed to be a full waterskin. Hamm bit into the food without a second glance but did manage to mumble something thankful with his mouthful. With an uneasy glance back the way he came, he hurried down the road on wobbly legs. He had no more desire to be with people who were comfortable fighting dragons than he was to be actually near the dragon.

“Farewell, new friend!” Percy shouted after him, once again extricating himself from Morgan’s grip. “Safe travels!”

The Story Pt. 3

December 24, 2016

the-story

I turned back to face Alice who was waiting, probably expecting me to sign on the dotted line. “Well, thanks for all of that exposition but I don’t think I’m a good fit here. In fact, I should get back to my place. I need to finish with these plays and I still have plenty of homework that you all interrupted,” I said. I was about done with the lunatic asylum. The whole concept of magic was astonishing but I knew if I let that idea take hold, I would never escape.

“Your answer is ‘no’? May I ask why?” Alice asked. She was completely thrown off.

“What you have here is potentially more powerful than nuclear arms. Power like that needs to be hidden away so it is never abused. It is too tempting to use once you know about it. If what you’re telling me about this Oncoming Storm is right, it has already fallen into the wrong hands,” I said. It was the only logical answer in my mind and the fact that it was not obvious to Alice further proved that point.

“Could you at least stay a bit so things can blow over on your campus? I can’t be sure of your safety right now. In fact, we cannot guarantee your safety for the rest of your life,” Alice said with a frown. She suddenly looked more tired. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

“Nobody could guarantee my safety before this happened either,” I responded.

“But the Editors and the Oncoming Storm will both be after you,” Alice said. “They won’t believe you said no. Nobody has ever said no before.”

“So I’ve heard. I’ll take my chances.”

“Don’t walk out of here out of stubbornness,” Alice said. She had her hands on her hips now, indignant at my behavior. I admit it was rude but these people were insane.

“I’m walking out of here because I don’t think I can handle magic. I don’t think the world can handle it either.”

“You don’t want to think about it?” Alice asked.

“No,” I said bluntly. “Show me the way out now.”

“Booker will show you the way out then,” Alice said.

Booker seemed to appear out of thin air. “Aww, really? Please stay, won’t you?”

I nearly jumped out of my shoes and I clutched my chest. “How did you do that?” I yelled at her. I felt a little bad about yelling despite the whole kidnapping and dangerous situation.

“Magic,” Booker said with that big grin. “Most of our spells come from our favorite pieces of literature. Alice and I like the Wonderland books a lot so we get a lot of our spells from there. Just now I harnessed the power of the legendary Cheshire Cat.”

“His power of plot convenience?” I asked. I smiled at my own bad joke. Nobody else did.

“Very funny. Everybody’s a critic.” Booker said.

“I kind of am a professional critic. So how does this harnessing work?” I asked. I could not help my curiosity.

“You just think of the right piece of fiction and you take on one of their aspects or powers. Sometimes focusing the power into an object or totem can help,” Alice said.

“Like this one,” Booker said. She was holding up the little rabbit she had been holding outside of the library. “Obviously, it is based on the White Rabbit and it stores the magic needed to make an instant entrance to Wonderland. Interesting, right?”

“And frightening. Now, could you stop harnessing the power of the Mad Hatter and get me out of here?” I asked.

“This is very serious to us. We have studied for quite a while to discover new aspects to magic,” Alice said. She was getting angry and it helped dispell the air of authority she had had when I first entered. She was a normal human being after all.

“Don’t go, we can teach you all of this and you can help us be good,” Booker said.

“Let him go. We do not force anyone to stay here and we are not going to start today. Try to send him back to a safe area,” Alice said.

“So, definitely not back to the library,” Booker said.

“That would be a no. Good luck, William. If you ever reconsider, we will be able to contact you again. If you are still alive, of course,” Alice said.

“That’s intimidating,” I said and walked away back down the hallway.

Pretty soon Booker had caught up, sighing several times dramatically. “I guess there’s not need for this anymore.” She waved her hand over her face and her hair turned dirty blonde and her eyes became a soft brown.

“Wait, that wasn’t real? Why?” I asked. This just got weirder and weirder.

“It’s a little cliche but I use it on recruitment runs. In a lot of bad fiction, the heroine had red hair and green eyes. Plus, I really like putting on my ‘game face’. It helps me find my confidence,” She said.

“You didn’t have to lie to me, Booker,” I said.

“Aww thanks, William.”

“Putting me in danger and kidnapping me worked just fine,” I said with a smile.

“You’re horrible,” she said but she was still smiling. “Just go through that door and William?”

“Yes?”

“Be careful.” She said.

I nodded and opened the door in front of us and walked through. I could instantly feel a difference in the atmosphere. I was behind a building on campus and, in the distance, I could see smoke drifting up from what was probably the line of cars in front of the library. Suddenly, I heard a loud click from right next to my head. It was a gun.

“Freeze. Don’t move a muscle.” A voice said.

The Story Pt. 2

December 10, 2016

the-story

I suddenly fell face first onto what felt like a futon. If you have ever been on a futon, you will know that this was not an altogether pleasant thing to land on but it beat many alternatives. I moved my hands and felt what definitely seemed very much like a futon. I lifted my head and let out the breath I guess I had been holding. The futon was blue and very futon-like and I was happy to land on something familiar and grounded after my trip through the abyss. I slowly pushed up onto my hands and feet and tried not to throw up my student center cheese fries. I stayed still for what felt like a long time. My stomach settled and I realized there were people standing around me. I started to stand and Booker moved to help me up.

“You should have been here when we didn’t have the futon,” She said with a chuckle and that same goofy grin from back in the library.

“I can’t imagine it was pretty. Where the Hell are we?” I asked, cutting to the chase. My head was still pretty much spinning. I did not realize I was still carrying my messenger bag until it bumped into my ribs. It made me flinch, much to Booker’s amusement.

“We call this Wonderland. It’s kind of our underground base of operations. Don’t worry, it’s more animated Disney Wonderland than it is live action Disney Underland. You’re safe here,” Booker said as she started walking. I took my cue to follow her, I guessed we were ignoring the other people who were slowly filtering away but they were eyeing me hard as they did. We were in some sort of tunnel. “Specifically, I call this section The Burrows.”

“An obvious name. Why am I here?” I asked. The word ‘why’ had been a question I felt still needed answering starting back in the library. However, we had barely stopped moving so far and I was getting worried nobody was going to explain.

“We’re going to meet with my boss,” Booker said. “She’ll explain everything.” She acted like that was sufficient enough of a statement.

“Who is your boss? What is this? What is going on?” I asked loudly. I had had enough.

We turned into a huge dome-shaped room. There was a woman in a red and blue dress. She had an easy smile on her face determination in her eyes. One eye was green and the other was black and it was both unsettling and captivating.

“I am the boss here. My name is Alice,” She said. “Welcome to Wonderland, William.” Oh great, another stranger who knew my name.

“Oh, I get it. I fell through a hole into Wonderland and now I am meeting Alice Very original,” I said, fighting not to laugh nervously. “What’s next? The Red Queen?” It was all too much. I admit now that this was a lot of sarcasm to lay at the feet of a woman I didn’t know. She knew my name, though.

“I guess you could call me the Red Queen too if you wanted to but it is a bit formal. I can be both the inquisitive Alice and the ruthless Red Queen. I am what I need to be,” She said. “And yes, this is our Wonderland but not the Wonderland, of course. We have fashioned a strange but safe haven here.”

“It has definitely been strange. Why am I here?” I asked. It felt like I was getting a headache but I also felt like we were making headway towards an actual explanation.

“I can answer that by explaining who we are. We are formally known as the Danali but we have been known by many names throughout our history. Currently, we move under the banner of Wonderland which is both a place and a movement,” She said. This much made some sense. “We are an ancient order of magic users devoted to making the world better. We want to bring magic back to the world for the benefit of mankind.”

“And the editors obviously don’t want that,” I said. The guns seemed to be proof of that but I wanted Alice to confirm.

“No. They definitely do not,” Alice said with the briefest of nods. “They are the Order of St. Francis de Sales but the term ‘editors’ is a cute name that is both shorter and very descriptive of their motives. They are trying to control the story.”

“And the world is the story. Booker told me,” I said. I noticed that Booker had left the room at some point.

“Yes, that’s how we see things. The story has grown cold and we want to heat it up again. Bring warmth to the world again,” Alice said. “That’s where you come in.”

“Wait, that’s where I come in? I have nothing to do with magic.”

“We often tap artists, writers and dreamers to join us here.”

“I’m a researcher,” I said. “I am an editor. I am kind of the enemy.” I smiled weakly.

“You understand the flow of a story. You understand what makes things tick. I believe yo could be a dynamic ally,” Alice explained.

“Against the editors?” I asked.

“Yes and the Oncoming Storm.”

“The what?”

“They are a what and a who. They are our true opposite number. They seek to use magic to dominate. They want to cleanse the Earth through destruction.”

“So, basically the evil army?” I asked.

“In the simplest terms. Our main task these days has been to keep them in check.”

I took a deep breath and I turned away from Queen Alice. This was a lot to take in. When I woke up I did not believe that magic was real. In fact, I had not believed in magic since I was very little. While I had a very strong suspension of disbelief, that was not the same as buying into all the great fiction I had seen in my life. Now I was being told that this was not just fiction and that some elements may have been real this whole time. I would have doubted that more but, barring heavy drugs, I was pretty sure that I had already experienced magical feats.

Alice was standing there and waiting for a very important answer to a very heavy question. Magic was real and there was a three-way battle over how to deal with that fact. Alice had said that Wonderland was ancient and that meant the battle was probably an old one. Long campaigns with no definitive answer were misery. The question was whether or not to enlist in that campaign. If the answer was yes, there was the promise of learning how to harness magic. This was attractive but it was attractive like a campfire was. If these people though they were in complete control of something like magic, they were insane.

Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 5

October 27, 2015

Aftershocks 2

Two figures appeared from the shadows under a dead tree on a hilltop not far from the school. The first figure was dwarven with red hair and lots of facial scars. The second figure had slicked-back blond hair and a long leather coat. They both looked agitated and disappointed but the blond one was especially frustrated.

“Charles.” The blond one said. He was tall and mostly human-shaped but way too pale to pass for anybody normal.

“William.” The short one said. He was a cruel mockery of the human form, his body parts exaggerated in all the wrong places. He was more like a doll than a real person.

“The attack failed, Charles,” William said, beginning to pace in the moonlight. His face twisted itself up into a demonic form.

“Relax, William. There’s plenty of time to get the job done.”

“I wanted to get my hands dirty. Specifically, I wanted to get them bloody.” William said with a sneer on his face.

“We both will. Soon.”

“Sooner now that Ley is back in the fire,” William said with a shiver. That wasn’t a fate he would have wished even for that asshole.

“Yeah, that’s true. Speaking of, we should probably get back and report.”

“Right. Back down below we both go.”

The duo slipped back into the shadows. The smell of sulfur drifted out on the night air.

* * *

Principal Wood sat patiently behind his desk, his arms folded. He had driven the girls home the night before but had called them to his office as soon as he could the next morning. Lydia had given him the vaguest of excuses for breaking into the gym but she could tell he wasn’t buying it. Nancy had not been any help, preferring to stay silent, but Lydia couldn’t blame her. Even now Nancy was reserved and wore a blank, closed off expression. Her arms were hugged tight to her body and she was staring at an empty corner of the room. Lydia wished that the two of them could have talked more but the Principal had interrupted that. At least Rob had disappeared at some point.

“I’m serious. I want an explanation from both of you.” Principal wood said and he leaned in slightly.

“I promise you wouldn’t believe it if I told you,” Lydia said with a shrug. “Just give us detention.”

“Ms. Brewster. Believe me when I tell you that I have seen plenty of strange things. I might surprise you with how much I believe.” Wood said with the faintest little smile.

Lydia felt like his eyes were looking straight through her. The two of them stared at each other over the desk. Maybe he would believe her. Maybe she didn’t have to stumble through this alone with her best friend and a ten-year-old kid who might never show up again. Adults never seemed to believe or, like her father and mother, tried to pretend that it wasn’t real with drugs and therapy. She had communed with ghosts and nearly married what was apparently a really important demon.

“Like what?” Lydia asked.

“Like I smelled a lot of sulfur in that gym before I turned the ventilation fans on. Was it demons?”

Lydia’s eyes went wide and she could feel Nancy suddenly come to life next to her. “Wait, how did you know!?” Nancy nearly shouted.

The Principal laughed a deep, satisfied laugh. “I’m not one of them if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve just fought a couple of them through the years.” He said and Nancy started to respond but Lydia silenced her by putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Maybe it was demons. Maybe we’re not ready to talk.” Lydia said, trying to keep her face neutral.

“I can help you but only if you can trust me enough to talk to me. If it was demons, the school is still standing and they’re no longer there. That might mean I have you to thank. I don’t really see the need to give you detention. However, if you were to show up after school anyway, maybe we could discuss the matter a little further. I just want to help you girls out.”

Lydia smiled and looked over at Nancy who gave a half-hearted little smile. “Maybe that will happen,” Lydia said. “But don’t hold your breath. Come on, Nancy. We have to get to class.”

Before the girls could get through the door, Principal Wood spoke up. “Be careful, ladies. I’ve seen what happens when a young woman goes up against a demon alone.”

Lydia pushed Nancy through the door and smirked without turning. “Yeah, we win.”


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