Chapter 42.4


Now that she was actually trying to walk straight on it, Elmiryn found she disagreed with the feel of asphalt. It was hard and cold and unnatural. She decided this was not the kind of place she wanted to vomit on all fours, so she made an effort to keep from letting vertigo swing her inebriation into the deep realms of unpleasantness. The challenge was increased, she found, by…well…a great many things.

The glare from the tall glass buildings hurt her eyes. The car exhaust from the rush hour traffic, and the steaming sewer grates created a ripe dizzying smell that was dwarfed only by the slum streets of Fiamma. The city also felt noisy with its car honks and people yelling. Elmiryn actually thought she’d prefer Tiesmire to this ruckus.

Then there was the bizarre wonderland that was Molly and Julie’s territory. There were moving pictures on the giant billboards, each waving to each other and shooing pigeons off of their signs. Mixed in with the ordinary people were cartoon characters made of crayon and objects come to life, like statues and stuffed animals.

Elmiryn even saw a pink elephant squeeze its way into a compact car.

To make matters even worse, her head still ached from the want (or rejection–she couldn’t tell which) of forbidden knowledge. Her thoughts as she tried to make sense of things were wild and varied.

Cars have to go to gas stations, but why isn’t anyone stopping at this one? Isn’t that blue metal box on the sidewalk a ‘gas station’? Why the FUCK is that guy putting paper into it!?

Hakeem, meanwhile, seemed immune from the effects of being in a world not his own. He was alert, his eyes searching their surroundings as if expecting an attack any minute.

“How come ya aren’ havin’ a hard time like me?” Elmiryn muttered resentfully. “Doesn’ this world confuse ya?”

At the question the wizard suddenly chuckled. It was a quick, tight sound.

“Confuse me? Fiamman, I was struck dumb! I could not move or speak for how much pain and fear I felt!” he answered.

Elmiryn blinked at him. “So how’d you get better?”

“That girl. Molly. She seems to have your penchant for…ah…rearranging things that are unseen. It took a few days. She didn’t trust me out right. I’ve only been in my right mind for a little over a day now.”

“I’ve been here before. I wasn’ havin’ this much trouble last time…” Elmiryn said with a pout.

Hakeem nodded, giving her an intent look. “I know. I watched you.”


He sighed. “It was before Izma sent me here. I was still with you all, but it was during her mind games with Lethia. She made me watch what everyone went through.”

Elmiryn scowled. “Why jes you?”

Hakeem raised an eyebrow at her. “Haven’t you been paying attention to what Molly and Julie have been telling you? The demon used me.”

“Nuh, uh. That don’ explain it, wizard. Ya said Izma made ya watch what everyone went through first. But if she wanted to send ya here and replace ya with a doll all along, why bother?”

He shrugged. “I don’t pretend to know everything. The best I can guess is that this is simply the demon’s way. She likes to watch others suffer.”

Elmiryn crossed her arms. “She wouldn’t have made you watch for nothing. She wanted to get into your head.” The woman’s eyes narrowed. “That’s it, innit? She showed you something so horrible, it made you not want to come back.”

“I’m not afraid,” Hakeem said ominously. “I’ve told you to leave the matter alone.”

“She got to you, wizard. But you know what…?” Elmiryn took a deep breath to say what came next. When this initial preparation fell short, the warrior paused on the sidewalk, hands on hips, and glared down at her boots. She mumbled through stiff lips. “She got to me too.”

Elmiryn looked up at Hakeem to see him standing and watching her with an unreadable expression. She thumbed at her chest.

“Maybe the drink is the only reason I can say it out loud, but Izma got to all of us! I could see as much in the others when we were fighting her. She’s a demon who feeds off of sadness and hopelessness. That’s how she works!”

The redhead flicked a hand. “But you know what? Fuck ‘er. We all survived!”

Hakeem gave a soft snort. “So I should just come back? Forget everything I saw and heard?”

“Uh, yeah. Thas’ bas-ic-ally what I jes said!”

“If you knew the things that I knew…” but the man broke off, turning and walking stiffly down the sidewalk. “Just take my word for it, Elmiryn. It is not so simple!”

Elmiryn stared after him, mouth open as she tried to grasp at the wispy, but very important detail that she suspected was staring her in the face.

What’s with this idiot? Being changed into a child didn’t faze him, but he sees some stuff and falls apart!

Then the warrior’s brows knitted together as she hurried in a haphazard line to catch up with the man.

And the hell does he mean, ‘If I knew what he knew that I…knew…what? …No…’

Elmiryn palmed her face as she fell into step a little after Hakeem.

I’m too drunk for this shit.

The rest of their walk continued in silence. Just when Elmiryn thought she was going to throw up again, Hakeem turned sharply down a narrow alley. Bewildered, she followed him until they took yet another turn, and that’s when she saw it.

This gateway was smaller than the ones that she had encountered, but there was no mistaking its shimmering energy against the alley’s dead end brick wall. She hurried toward it eagerly, but stopped when she realized Hakeem was no longer with her. When Elmiryn looked back, it was to see the man already backpedaling away, his face tense. For a fleeting moment, the redhead had an extreme idea:

If I grab him, maybe I can push him in?

But she discarded this quickly. She was in no shape to be wrestling with someone of Hakeem’s stature. Besides, the man would probably just leap right back the way he’d come.

“Ya really oughta come with me, Hakeem,” Elmiryn said somberly.

“I will return. I promise,” was his stony response.

The warrior cursed. “Yer askin’ a lot o’ me, y’know? If Quincy thinks ya died when I destroy that doll thing, she’ll…” she trailed off meaningfully.

Hakeem turned and started to walk away. “I trust you’ll do the right thing. Take care of my wife while I’m away. She’s more vulnerable than she’d like for people to think.”

Elmiryn sighed and let her shoulders sink as she watched the wizard round the corner out of sight.

“Yeah?” she muttered. “Well the same goes for you!”

Turning back around, the warrior appraised the gateway critically. Then she wagged a finger at it.

“Ya better take me home! I mean it! Or I’ll tell all the other portals jes how teeny ya really are!”

Just for good measure, she gave the gateway a stern glare, before stepping through.


The date is unknown. I’m not even sure what time of day it is. Maybe I just won’t bother with that sort of thing for this. It seems a trivial thing to care for in a place that doesn’t follow time.

Before I write anything more, I just want to apologize to the soul whom I must now borrow this journal from. Jydel Anv.

Dear Jydel,

I found your journal near our camp when I was scavenging with my dog companion, Argos. It was wrapped up in cloth in a torn knapsack. Some of the earlier pages were damaged by the damp snow, but some were preserved. I was able to read enough to know that you were forced to become a guard at Holzoff’s, like so many were, and I know you were young. Not even fifteen. It was not fair that you met your fate at the claws of the daesce. I can’t presume to know what your last moments were like, but judging from your last entries, your guardmates were of the unsavory sort, and they must have left you behind at a critical moment for you to fall prey to the monsters. In that regard, I think we can relate to one another. I too know the sting of that kind of betrayal.

Maybe that’s how I should approach this? I’ll just write to you, from now on, Jydel. Pardon the charcoal. It was the only thing I could find to write with.

I wonder if the gods would frown down on me for writing on the pages of a dead man? Oh, but I’m almost certain they despise me anyways for all the taint I’ve been exposed to. Being a demon’s plaything and a mad woman’s prisoner leaves a person less than pure…

I’m sorry. I’ll stop. I’m not ignorant to my own self-pity. I know I should be stronger, and I’ve tried in awkward spurts to be just that, but my strength as of late seems so fleeting. I wanted to help my companions in our most recent struggle, but when the battle was over and I looked back, it really felt that nothing I did could make up for the harm I had caused. The others seemed to agree. Nyx, for instance, loathes me. I can hear it echoing in her thoughts sometimes. She’s been more on guard these days, trying to build walls around her mind. I think it was the revelation that Paulo is also an enchanter that did it. I don’t blame her. Two unstable enchanters must make a person feel paranoid…

My apologies again, Jydel! I’m talking about these people as if you know them.

Nyx is an Ailuran. She’s suffered a lot in her life, and more so these past few weeks. You should know that she’s Marked, but she is not a bad person. Like you, Jydel, she just made mistakes. Honestly, out of this strange group, she is the only one who might understand how I’m feeling right now, but also out of this group, she is the one whom I’ve hurt the most. It’s cruel the way life works sometimes. I wish I could make it up to her…

Quincy is a human wizard. She’s a bounty hunter–or was, I should say. Given her decision to help me sometime ago, I doubt she has much of a career to return to. Bounty hunters going back on their contracts is not a small thing. To be fair, of this group, she is the one who dislikes me the least. She’s more focused on trying to keep her husband alive.

Hakeem is a Fanaean wizard like her but he is in a coma and getting weaker by the day. I won’t bother talking about him much. I don’t think he’ll survive.

Argos is my dog companion, as I mentioned before. As a puppy, he was the subject of an illegal experiment by a satyr, and so grew very large and is very intelligent. I’ve always had an affinity for reading the minds of animals to begin with, so Argos and I, we speak telepathically. Very recently, my friend was apparently the agent of the god Lacertli. I doubt you’ve heard of him. I certainly hadn’t until recently!

Then there’s Paulo. He’s…

Actually I don’t want to write about him. Just know that Paulo is a young human man whom I’ve hurt the same, if not worse, than Nyx. It goes without saying that he dislikes me. Intensely.

I believe that just about covers the basics for you, Jydel. I’m afraid I’m tiring, and fast. I will have to resume this some other time. Nyx and Quincy are returning from their scavenging, and Paulo is once again absent. We’re all doing our part to prepare for the journey to Syria’s tower, where we hope to find our escape from this place. It should be any day now…


Dear Jydel,

I had a nightmare last night. Syria taught me that when an enchanter has nightmares they should be heeded. You see, in enchantment we see nightmares as more than just warnings. They are used as a tool by the animus to communicate with the intellect. What was my nightmare, then?

I dreamt of devouring myself, flesh and bone.

Yes, I know. Sometimes I wish my animus had better communication skills.



today was a bad one. i cannot even bring myself to say why. writing this alone takes effort.

i’m not sure i can wait till we get back to do it


Dear Jydel,

Forgive my poor writing yesterday. Have you ever been so depressed you could not sit up, let alone move or speak? That was just such a day. That doesn’t excuse the childish scrawl I gave you, however. This is what happened that brought on such a thing–

I was out scavenging with Argos when I came across Paulo in the snow. Argos and I never travel far, and we usually search to the south. You see, unlike the others, I cannot defend myself adequately, and my companion can only do so much to protect me. The deeper into the valley, the more dangerous it is–as I’m sure you’re aware. Further north is much the same. Thus, why I was surprised to see Paulo. He usually delves deep and far northwest into the valley, but for some reason he had bothered to come around where we were.

To summarize things for you, I promised Paulo something grave in order to convince him to go to Syria’s tower. You see, he didn’t want to go. He was scared, and I understand why. As an untrained enchanter, his thoughts go unchecked, and his power has the curious effect of amplifying his mind. I saw his fears.

When he first visited Syria’s tower so long ago, back when he was hunting me as a bounty, he became afflicted by Izma’s taint. It was worse for his vulnerability as a magic caster. Since he lacked training… Well, you can understand it as a gaping wound having salt rubbed into it. Hard. It was traumatizing to him. He became haunted with visions and a constant pain throughout his body. Who would want to return to the place that started all this after such an experience?

But I offered him something he cannot resist. A chance at closure.

Argos protested of course. It pained me to do that to my friend, but I had to wipe that memory from his head to stop him interfering. He is suspicious now. He keeps asking me why Paulo changed his mind. Oh, how I loathe myself for treating my best friend so poorly! I don’t know what else I could have done. Argos certainly deserves better than me.

I’ve digressed. Back to what happened yesterday–

When Paulo sought me out in the snow, I suppose he was afraid I’d back out on our agreement. He threatened me. His words sent me low, and I had to return to camp early.

It’s sort of funny now, looking back. After the deal we struck, what could Paulo possibly threaten me with?


Dear Jydel,

The day has come! We are leaving this terrible place. We have cloaks with hoods to protect from the chilly winds. We have enough food and firewood that, if properly rationed, should last us at least another five days. We’ll have to hunt for more meat, possibly. Quincy believes she can scrape out some more usable wood from her magical bag in an emergency. Together, we’ve either scavenged or fashioned tools for the trip. The one thing we still greatly lack is proper rope. Whatever ties we could scrounge up have gone to the task of hauling Hakeem’s limp body along in a sort of gurney. I was afraid to say it before, but I agree with Nyx. Trying to carry an unconscious man over the mountains with our poor resources is impractical. But we need Quincy to come with us–to fend off threats if nothing else, and believe me, that is plenty.

She cannot be convinced to see Nyx’s arguments, and Nyx is a vermagus. Have you heard of those, Jydel? Well. I suppose all you need to understand is that if Nyx cannot convince Quincy, the rest of us certainly can’t.

The others are calling me. I have to go now. We’re so close. If we can just get through this, I may find a way to make it up to everyone.

Continue ReadingChapter 42.4

Chapter 43.2

Author’s Note: After a year of hiatus, Eikasia is back! To celebrate, please enjoy this ‘double update’ featuring installments 43.2 and 43.3. I’m finally ahead on my writing, so expect consistent updates for the next few weeks! Also, in case you haven’t heard, Tributaries, the first story arc, has had a huge makeover and is now available on Amazon and Smashwords as an e-book! It’s a new experience, so please consider checking it out! Thanks for keeping the faith everyone.

–Illise M.


It had been one week since we left Holzoff’s, and two weeks since we arrived on this damned shard. We were starving, and always on the verge of freezing to death. Our meager supply of wood was dwindling, as Quincy had run out of things she could pull out of her bag for us to burn, and some of the wood we had collected had spoiled from exposure to snow. The others had largely given up on my idea to raise our luck through multiples of nine. I still tried, though not as often as before. Talking took real effort now, and our conversations were well past desperate in nature.

Paulo even asked if he could chop off one of my arms for us to eat raw.

“No,” I croaked, nine times in reply.

But only after seriously debating it.

I’d already had to shed a finger or two with my regenerative ability because of frostbite. In a bid to keep everyone’s hopes up, I’d sacrificed some of my bandage cloth so that they could wrap their hands and faces from the wind. I was starting to regret the decision. I was noticing that my regeneration was slowing down, and every time I had to heal took a lot of energy out of me. The others weren’t all that cheered up by my generous offering, anyway.

We were approaching a steep ravine when Paulo suddenly turned on Lethia.

“I said STAY OUT!” he bellowed.

I could see Lethia cringe, but a dark look soon crossed her face, and she spat back, “I told you to shield your thoughts! It isn’t my fault if you think at the volume of a trumpet!”

Seres un lia bal!” Paulo shouted.

Everyone moved simultaneously. Paulo toward Lethia menacingly, while the girl retreated. Argos shielded his mistress with a snarl. Quincy and I intercepted Paulo.

“Paulo, be quiet,” Quincy hissed. “You’ll draw the daesce!”

He ignored her and craned his head to shout next, “You gods damned witch bitch! Do you want to settle things right now?”

“Shut up, boy!” I snapped. Or more likely it was my sister who said that. She sat just underneath the surface these days, tense and fearful. I knew she resented me for staying with the others, but we both knew this last bid for freedom to the real world was going to be a trial no matter what.

“Let him go,” Lethia mumbled behind us.

I took a second to turn and bat my eyes at the enchantress. “What?”

“Let him go,” she repeated, gently pushing Argos aside. “I owe him a debt. If he wants to collect it now, he can. It’s his right.”

“What debt?” Quincy asked next. She looked at Paulo next. “Did you make an agreement?”

Paulo started to answer her when there was a distant howl. All of us froze.

“Now you’ve done it,” Quincy hissed at the two teenagers.

Lethia moaned. “Are the daesce coming? But we’re pinned here!”

We were. The ravine was far too steep and icy for us to ascend normally with Hakeem and Argos. The mountain line, which previously seemed to embrace us, now seemed to box us in.

I shook my head, breaking off from the group to trudge toward the valley.

“No,” I breathed. “Those aren’t daesce.”

Sister! Kali exclaimed in my head.

I know, I thought in response.

Hurriedly I kicked off my boots and barked at the others, “Guard me!”

Quincy was looking at me as if I was insane. “You can’t be serious! We are in no shape to fight!”

“We have no choice,” I snarled back. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re trapped here!”

“But, Hakeem—”

“Guard him,” I ordered through bared teeth. The snow stung my bare feet as I trudged out further. Dark shapes could be seen through the snow blind far ahead, and they were getting bigger.

I glared over my shoulder at the others. “Paulo, Argos, cover me! I’m going to shift! Lethia, stay with Quincy!”

“What’s coming?” Paulo asked, but even as he did so he already had his rapier out and was joining me at my side. Argos appeared a second later at my other side, his furry face harder to gauge even at this close a distance.

“Wolves,” I choked out, before the shift took hold.

Ekikos. Near-cat. It was one of the five forms that Ailurans were capable of undertaking from the Sacred Five of the Lunar Hall, and it was one step after Ekilluos. It was a form mostly in Kali’s realm, steeped in her primitive and uninhibited passion as it were. Our body would shift to that like a predatory panther…but much larger, with a longer neck and longer digits that could almost function like hands.

As usual, the shift rendered us incapacitated, and through the pain of transformation I could hear Argos and Paulo meet the wolves in battle. Confusion and worry pulsed inside me, as I heard yelps and cries, and I had no idea if the fight was turning against us before I could even do anything about it.

It was just as well. Once the change was complete, and we raised ourselves from the snow, there really wasn’t anything I could do about it…because my Twin was the one in control now.


I opened my eyes and growled at what I saw.

There were three wolves before me, fighting the annoying boy and the large dog. My hackles rose. A pack of three could not survive in this harsh environment against the daesce. Beasts like these would need numbers.

We are being flanked.

The moment the thought arrived, I heard a scream behind me. I turned my furry head to see Lethia on the ground, a tall skinny wolf tearing at her right arm with hungry zeal. I let out a sharp roar from the very back of my throat as I pushed into a run, pummeling over the wolf that had set upon the enchantress. From the very edge of my vision, I could see Quincy fending off two more wolves that looked keen to get to the unconscious Hakeem behind her.

There were six wolves in all, and all of them were skinny. Still, I wasn’t going to be picky about a potential meal.

Which was just about all I could think of as I pinned the scrawny wolf beneath me with a massive paw on its throat and my jaws around its face. A sharp jerk, and even over the low howl of the wind I could hear its bones snap. One down. Without even pausing to glance at Lethia, I was moving again, my paws breaking through the snow like it was nothing. This power was costly, as Nyx whispered within the depths of our shared mind. This battle would have to be swift, or the exertion would leave me as vulnerable as Hakeem.

I charged in close to one wolf, my head ducking just underneath its chin before I reared up and back, ramming my neck and shoulders into the canine’s lightweight body. Like a pup, it was flung aside, leaving me open to bare down on its comrade, whom Quincy had just slashed back. The blood from its shoulder put me into a frenzy and…my thoughts became…harder to…hold…

Wolf turned to me. Wolf was food.

Looked like it. Smelled like it.

So I killed it. Chased it down and tore out its insides.

Made the snow a dark color.

Heard the other wolves yelp and howl. They ran.

Didn’t care. Got food. Was hungry.

Took my kill and dragged it to the other one. Both were mine.

Hunkered down so I could see the humans, and started to eat.


Meat. Meat. Meat. MEAT.

Quincy started saying something to me. Ignored her.

Food was lean, but it was mine.

Twin in my head started saying something too.

Shut her out. Annoying. It wasn’t her turn.

Quincy started yelling and came too close.

Jumped and snarled at her.

Even in the dark, could tell she turned white.

Wizard backed off, hands up, spoke soft.


I tensed up. Words were important.

I was supposed to listen to Words.

“Kali…we…too eat…can’t have…all.”

I growled a little. Stupid Words.

This was sapiens’ problem.

Words made things complicated.

I killed food. Food was mine.

Simple. Easy.

But Quincy kept talking.

“We’re starving…Kali, please! You must share!”

I was distracted. Nyx wormed her way back in, too.

Kali! Please calm yourself! We cannot survive alone out here!

And with a shake of my head, the haze of bloodlust subsided.

With a great sigh, I took a few steps back, then sat on my rear paws. Quincy and the others stared at me a beat longer before nervously pulling the meat away. I was fine that they took the rest. I had already eaten my share. I may have even eaten too much, but that could not be helped now.

You did well, sister….

My furry face pulled up in what could be construed as a rueful smile.

No, Nyx, I replied inwardly. I barely managed to keep from making things worse.

It was true. For everyone’s attempts at bringing me out of that deep black primal fury that I was so accustomed to succumbing to, the only real reason I came back was for one simple fact. Exhaustion. I didn’t have it in me to fight off three humans and a bear of a dog, and the primal parts of me knew it.

I may not be the essence of bestial instinct, Nyx. But of us both, I know, that it is I who holds that violence closer to her being.

And to this, my Twin could spare no other words.

As the others collected themselves, I turned and slipped further into the darkness of the weak storm that was dying down. Nyx was in no hurry to reclaim control, and I knew why. In an effort to keep things amicable between us, I decided to humor her desire to hide away from the others a while longer. She was tired. I supposed she deserved something of a rest. It was only theoretical in nature anyway. We shared the same body, after all.

I shook my head with a snort at this thinking. Theoretical? When had I started concerning myself with such bewildering ideas? When had I started thinking in such convoluted patterns, for that matter? It seemed like only yesterday when the most complex thought I could come up with was a mental picture of eating a gopher. I almost missed the simplicity of such an existence.


As the moments drew on, I decided it was perhaps best to urge the others to continue our journey. The daesce would smell the wolf carcasses soon enough, and the only way we could cook and eat them in peace would be if we were on higher ground.

Just as I started to return, a strange petite woman appeared before me, blocking my way.

I froze, my body immediately tensing. I could not recall seeing her before, and judging by Nyx’s alarm, neither could she.

She was topless, her breasts small and almost prepubescent, the nipples a warm shade of pink. She was chubby, her short golden hair in tight curls that teased her ruddy cheeks, and her eyes were a crisp apple red. Draping her slim hips was a white skirt, hemmed with gold. In her right hand she gripped a short golden sceptre with a circular crown that held rotating arrows pointing in all directions. What was most striking about her were the wings, of course. These sprouted from her back in bright white plumage that almost glowed.

This…this is…! I knew what my sister thought even though she couldn’t finish the idea in word.

The ethereal woman tilted her head to one side and smiled pleasantly. “Kali,” she said in a dulcet voice, all sweet honey…except, there was something sharp about it. Like she hid some darker spice, and it was just waiting for the right moment to come bursting out of her. It made me nervous.

Sure enough, the woman’s eyes darkened—literally darkened, like blood—and she spoke my name again, more forcefully: “Kali. Speak. Thou know who stands before thee!”

That was right. In this world, I could speak in my natural forms, even if I could not in the Real World.

“My lady!” I growled anxiously, dipping into my best version of a feline bow. “Forgive me…Fortuna!”

The goddess smiled again, her eyes once again lightened to their almost candy red shade, and she said, “I had to see Lacertli’s champion for myself. Thou art a curious thing, to be sure!”

“Curious, and in your debt,” a familiar voice hissed behind us.

I glanced briefly before deepening my bow. Lacertli appeared at my side and gazed levelly at Fortuna.

“Sister, it is unlike thee to appear under such circumstances. May I ask why?” the Lizard King asked.

Lady Fortuna shrugged, her innocent face turning coy. “Thou have brought a new game piece to the board, brother! Do not tell me that is not reason enough! Not when I am one of the few to have kept her piece in play!”

Lacertli made a face of disgust. “Not everything is a game.”

The goddess only laughed. “Please! Thou of all should understand best! Are we not in constant competition? Besides,” and here Fortuna spared me a wry look. “The Abominable Twins kept prodding me with their numerous invocations. She was lucky I was in such a good mood to treat her crude luck-mongering favorably!”

I could feel Nyx cringe.

I snarled at her mentally, Next time, don’t try our luck so hard!

Lacertli startled me right then. He reached down and patted my downturned head.

“She will not bother thee again. She was acting under my guidance. What would thou like in reparation?”

Fortuna’s eyes glinted and she smiled wide at Lacertli. “We shall speak elsewhere. This is not for mortal ears, champion or no.”

Lacertli sighed, and I could hear the gravity of the situation in his voice. What had we done?

“Very well.”

“Master?” I dared to raise my head and look at the Lizard King. I had only truly served him for much less than Nyx had, but it already made me anxious to think he would be gone from us. Just about the only thing keeping me from losing hope in this place was the thought that Lacertli was watching over us.

Lacertli shook his head. “Kali. Nyx. Thou art to proceed as planned. Trust in thine instincts, for they are strong. I will be with ye both shortly.”


Except both gods were gone in the blink of an eye before I could protest further.

I stared into the dark, a heavy sinking feeling settling in my stomach. Being in Fortuna’s debt was not a good thing. I imagined it was no less treacherous even for a god.

“Kali!” Quincy’s voice. I snapped my eyes in the direction of it, and found her approaching through the snow. “What are you doing? We have to hurry!”

I didn’t need her warning. I could hear the daesce roaring in the near distance.

With one last look around me, I hurried to join the others.


Dear Jydel,

I hate mountains.

Not a lot of elbow room in this crevice we’re sleeping in.

We’re halfway to our destination, surviving off burned wolf meat and frozen weeds found under loose rocks. I cannot say I’m eager to return home, but anything is better than this. Nyx shifted back. Kali couldn’t climb the mountain, obviously, but she went as far as she could before changing. It was almost nice having Kali around. Of the Twins, she holds the least resentment towards me.

My left arm is tingling. I think it knows what awaits us at Syria’s tower.


Dear Jydel,

Forgive the smudges. Argos drooled over my shoulder when we were taking a break on a plateau. I’m afraid he may have read some of my letters to you. I suppose I could just refrain from saying anything important here, but it’s one of the few things bringing me comfort these days. If I must, I’ll simply wipe my friend’s memory again. It is a horrible thing, but it has to be done. Otherwise, I won’t make it. I need this, and Paulo needs his wish fulfilled. Sometimes, when I wake from sleep, I catch him looking at me. At first I thought it was scary, but I’ve come to accept it, now.

I think we’ve only a half day’s journey left. We’re going to forego sleep for one last push to our destination. I hope I can make it. The last of our food ran out and the cold is making me sleepy…



We’ve finally reached the top of the mountain, and I can see it! I can see the tower!

Nyx and Quincy agreed to take a short rest, but we’re leaving again in a few minutes. The hard part is done. Now we can go home.


I could hardly believe it.

After so many days, so many places, so many hardships, we were at the end of it all. We had arrived at our escape from The Other Place. This gods damned half-dimension teeming with spirits and warped by confused laws and time. The eight-story tall gate surrounding Syria’s land seemed hardly an obstacle compared to everything else. I picked the lock at the gate with ease, pushing it open and ignoring the discarded chains at my feet. Lethia pointed and said the gateway to our freedom was toward the tower, and I ran, down the dirt path that cut through the snow-covered grass to the tall stone structure, where a small barn and a tree stood near it. None of the others could keep up with me, especially whilst dragging Hakeem. It was beyond selfish, and I told myself I wouldn’t leave without them. But I just had to be there, closer to the way out. I wanted to see my salvation with my own eyes.

It was a little after halfway down the path that I started to hear it—


It was wordless, and mournful, and terrible, touching all the places in my mind that I hadn’t even been aware of. My body tingled and I yelled, covering my ears. The others, who had been just as eager to reach the tower as I had skidded to a halt near me, their eyes wide but their faces showing they did not hear what I heard.

I tried to return to them, tried to escape that horrible sound, but like a noose around my neck I was pulled back, and the sensation in my head reached a crescendo of full out pain. I fell to the ground writhing, trying fruitlessly to claw the noise out of my ears.

“The music! It hurts!” I screamed.

The others backed away, their tired, pale faces drawn as they watched me helplessly. I thought I heard Quincy or Lethia yell something at me. Paulo looked on the verge of running back the way we’d come. Only Argos seemed wiling to try to venture closer, but I stopped him with a frantic wave of my hand.

“No!” I bit out, fighting to gather myself. “Don’t Argos! It’ll hurt you! It’s…the sound…is coming from…something near the tower!”

When I tried to get up, I swooned, my vision rippling with rainbows and stars. I thought my head was going to split into two. It was made worse by the sensation of maggots in my brain.

I slowly looked over my shoulder. Through the burst of colors in my eyes I could make out the tower, the barn, and the tree.

My eyes widened.

I looked back at Paulo, then back again.

“An axe…for the tree!” I panted.

Continue ReadingChapter 43.2

Chapter 44.3


Dear Jydel,

I’ll have you know that people are fantastically annoying sometimes.

Being tended to by Daedalus is fine. But Quincy? Ye gods! I would rather chop off my other arm than have to suffer her prickly bedside manner any longer!

Sorry, was that joke too soon?

It’s just that I’m so irritated! Everyone has started treating me as though I’m a lunatic about to hop off the nearest cliff. Halward help them, they just don’t understand at all! I mean, if I was really intent on killing myself, I think I would have enough intelligence to go about it more efficiently than just amputating a gods damned limb!

But what can I do? I can’t make them see what they don’t want to. And in the end, I didn’t do it for them. It was my own blood pact, paid in flesh. I know what my destiny is now, Jydel.

I have to kill Syria.

I lay awake in the barn, staring up at the rafters, and it’s all I can think about. And even if I told this to the others? I still do not think they would understand. They would say, “Ah! She must really hate Syria to wish her dead!”

That just isn’t true.

Syria was my mother. I can no more cease to love her than I could stop breathing. It is just a fact of my reality. But I do not need to love the crimes she has committed, and as her adopted daughter, I see it is my duty to preserve what is left of her legacy. I feel almost rejuvenated, to have such a clear goal in front of me now. Izma’s way was wrong. I couldn’t see that before because I was lost in the labyrinthine logic that no doubt trapped my mistress. What is wrong with intellectuals, that we manage to complicate things that are supposed to be simple? We get so caught up in our ideas that we lose sight of the point, whatever that may be.

Nyx does it. She weighs her thoughts on a scale like an alchemist, ticking off pros and cons, arguing one point against another. I think she would have made a stellar scholar. But her passion! It’s strong and highly unreasonable, jerking her this way and that by a storm of feelings. I can see it every time she looks at me. Conflict rages inside of her. The anger tenses her brow and darkens her eyes when her charity is scarce. But when she’s in a lighter mood? I see a strange bout of sympathy bubble up. It’s tiring, that hot and cold attitude. I’d almost prefer it be the anger alone if it meant I knew where I stood with her!

Oh, but listen to me complain! I’m sorry Jydel, I can probably guess what you’re thinking. “Complains about the drizzle, but hardly wants the storm. Typical woman!” I suppose I can just shut up and try to find the silver lining to this. Maybe Nyx can finally find it in her heart to forgive me? We’ll see. She left earlier today to search for Elmiryn. I don’t think she’ll be back for a few days. Maybe all she really needed was some time to herself.

Sometimes, I feel the same way.

At night, I think I hear Paulo outside of the barn, skulking. He’s such a self-conscious boy, Jydel. I think Quincy is aware of this, but Nyx isn’t. I can’t really blame her. It’s not as though Paulo makes it easy for anyone to feel sorry for him, but just imagine being stuck alone for a year in a cold, dark half world with monsters. Then the only company that finds you turns out to be group of judgmental women and a snarling dog.

Oh and by the way, your brother is dead. Cheers!

Don’t get me wrong. Paulo is still a git, but I can understand why he is one. Does that make sense?

Of course not. I suppose that’s what I can expect after living most of my life in a tower with a crazy woman. I end up feeling sorry for assholes. It’s like some weird cosmic joke.

If the universe thinks that is funny, it should see what I’m about to do next.

No. Nevermind. Tomorrow. I’ll tell you tomorrow, Jydel. My hand is starting to cramp up and I’m feeling anxious enough for a walk.


The Albian wilderness was no less treacherous now that winter was over. Despite the fact that the only snow could be found on higher altitudes, the daesce still lurked the mountains. I’d learned from Daedalus that Holzoff’s Tower had been indefinitely closed in light of Syria’s dramatic escape. That meant the food source the terrible daesce relied on was now gone. The population of monsters spread, sometimes in large herds, other times alone or in small packs, attacking and devouring whatever they could get their claws on. Families had been destroyed overnight. Travelers were attacked and left mutilated on the roads, hurting trade. This prompted the new leader of Belcliff to hire help in beating the beasts back, exterminating them where possible. Many of these people were bounty hunters waiting for their next real job. It was amazing the devastating effects, both in the community and personally, our group’s past actions had.

So traversing into the wilds, I was on guard at all times. There was no telling when a bounty hunter or a daesce could appear.

But with so much time to myself, I couldn’t help but brood.

Lethia’s words echoed in my head.

When you figure out what you want from me, tell me.

What do I want? I thought angrily. I want to stop hurting! I’m sick of feeling so much pain!

Kali chimed in on my private thoughts. It was her new favorite thing to do, apparently.

Perhaps instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you could just talk about it? she offered dryly.

I balked at this. What in the four winds are you talking about?

Oh you know. When you two-leggers open your mouths and sounds come out? TALKING, Nyx! Sweet Aelurus, I thought you’d be familiar with the concept by now? You do it all the time, after all!

But what would we talk about, I mean! I snapped back. Lethia knows what happened! She knows why I’m upset with her!

Oh, and I suppose you feel she understands everything you felt and thought given that moment?

Yes! She does! Quite literally, as a matter of fact since she– but I broke off, my feet slowing to a stop as I neared a slope that led into a small field between the hills I traveled through.

I was about to finish that thought with she was reading my mind the whole time but it occurred to me that in that moment Lethia hadn’t been in control. Izma had. Lethia’s decisions may have led to the situation, but did that mean she was present the entire time?

Kali, ever aware of my thoughts, said quietly, We once acted under the best intentions, and our family perished as a result. I don’t think Lethia meant for what happened any more than we meant for our family’s fate. That’s all I will say about that, sister.

My throat grew tight. I didn’t argue her point, but I didn’t dive too deeply into it either. I couldn’t afford this level of reflection if I wanted to stay safe and find Elmiryn before it was too late.

That thought firmly in mind, I forged onward.


Dear Jydel,

Daedalus sat down to talk about the request I made of him the other day. You remember, right? I’ve kept it a secret from the others for a reason, but perhaps if they learned of my intentions, they would treat me differently.

After all, I couldn’t be suicidal if I intended to replace my arm.

And here’s the good news: Daedalus thinks he can do it!

He showed me some sketches and plans, then a few parts from his wagon that he thinks he can use. A lot of it, he says, will have to be custom made, and he’s missing some rare elements that would be necessary for the arm’s function, but he suspects he can find these things within the next few weeks! I was elated, I tell you!

Daedalus may make a living as a jeweler, but he’s always been a tinkerer at heart. I’m sure you can probably see up there in heaven, Jydel, but the elf’s work is amazing! His automated guard statues aren’t even his best work. Apparently, he’s been constructing a ship in his spare time too. He keeps it hidden, for you see, it’s not just any ship, it’s

[The ink trails off and smears]

[The writing continues at the bottom of the page, but in a shakier hand]

Jydel he’s awake gods I didn’t think it was possible but Hakeem is AWAKE!


The days came and went. I was losing myself in the Albian wilds, gradually returning to that almost feral way of life I had adopted before I’d met Elmiryn. It was nighttime. Kali hovered close to the surface, peering out of my eyes as we sat hunched in the dark in the shadow of a broad and fragrant blue juniper tree. We were downwind, and I was hoping the strong tree smell would mask our scent from the daesce that had wandered across our path. It wasn’t the largest I’d seen, but it was still big enough to make me pause. Its clawed paws dragged along the dirt as it lumbered along, head bowed, red eyes glaring at nothing. This one was skinny–its mangy white coat thinned enough in places that I could see its dark skin. I sighed. If this beast didn’t leave the area soon, I’d either have to turn around or fight it. I didn’t like either option.

The best part? I was just three days away from the full moon. All I could feel was the primal aggression burning in my limbs, urging me to run. It was part of the reason I had trouble resisting Kali’s will.

Fight it! Scare it off! she snapped at me.

No! I fired back. I don’t need to stir up trouble! Besides, engaging this one might attract others!

What’s the matter with you? You’re a champion of heaven and you’ve fought things twice this size! Just kill it and let’s be on our way!

I clenched my fists and bowed my head as I tried to reign in my frustration. Kali, enough! You know it’s not your turn! If you promise to behave I’ll…I’ll let you have full control for seven days!

That got her attention. I could feel her perk up like I’d just offered her a treat. A full week? You promise?

My heart skipped. What a fool! Just what had I offered without thinking?

In what I hoped felt nonchalant, I replied, Not a full week. Seven days. We’ll switch off.

Kali growled. You’re backpedaling!

I never said a full week!

It’s fucking semantics and you know it!

Regardless, this is the best you’ll get right now! I can’t have you running off and ruining the things I’m working for.

Why can’t you trust anyone? Kali asked, hurt clear in her words.

I faltered. I…I DO trust people! But things are delicate right now, and we both know you have no desire to take charge on those matters. At her sullen reticence, I added imploringly, Oh, sister please don’t be upset with me! I’ve already got enough on my plate, I don’t need to have you resenting me on top of it all!

I could feel her sink away from me, deeper into her realm. My gut clenched. Since we had more or less reconciled our differences, having Kali on my side had been a tremendous relief. I’m not sure I could have gotten through those last days in the Other Place had we still been at odds. But if she decided to quarrel with me again….

When Kali returned to the surface, I tensed in anticipation.

Fine. We’ll switch off for seven days, she grumbled. BUT I want to be able to walk upright.

I faltered at this. She wanted to assume the sapien form? I thought she hated it? Kali, I know we did that in the half-dimension, but what if it doesn’t work here? We’re fully in the realms of the gods once more, so there are more limits!

If I’m not really our animal nature manifested, then that should mean I can exist in the world as you do! Haven’t I done it before?

She had a point. Sort of. My sneaky sister was failing to mention that the only reason she had been able to assume my form in our world was because Meznik’s evil influence had allowed her to.

Still, I mulled over this.

After several moments, I replied, If you can do it, and Lacertli does not object, then I suppose it isn’t a problem…. I didn’t know if Kali purposefully taking control of my sapien form would somehow be an affront to Harmony. That was the tricky thing about being an abomination of nature. When your very existence was wrong, what could you do that was permissible in the first place? I was a champion of heaven–did that give us some kind of temporary pardon?

Thinking of the Lizard King made me anxious all over again. It had been almost a week and I still hadn’t heard from him. Just what did Fortuna ask him to do, and was he all right?

Are you worrying about a god? Kali snapped, annoyed. She was so much more irritable these days, it was exhausting. Focus! We’re still talking!

My expression turned contrite. Sorry…

Just at that moment, I heard a twig snap. Kali fell silent as I went stiff, eyes raising once more. Our inward exchanges were fast–taking mere seconds what would ordinarily take longer to say aloud. But even that discussion had been lengthy. I couldn’t see the daesce anymore. Was it really gone? There were lots of things lurking hidden in the Albian wilds. Many of these creatures were completely harmless. But if our inattentiveness had allowed a beast to get the jump on us….

I breathed in deep.

I could sense the damp soil, the juniper trees, the frost that clung to the rocks. The stench of the daesce was like an ugly streak in the air, making my nose wrinkle. I couldn’t hear the beast anymore, and the smell hadn’t grown any stronger. Perhaps it really had moved on?

I crept out of the shadows, cautiously straightening.

That’s when the daesce hit me from behind, screeching wildly. My face went into the dirt when it grabbed the back of my head and tried to crush my skull. My hands clawed at the ground in a panic as I tried to get the leverage needed to throw the monster off of me.

Rage built up, burning my muscles, slicing my lungs as desperate breaths cut up my throat in sharp whines. I loathed these creatures with every fiber of my being. Loathed their violence. Loathed their hedonism. Loathed our similarities.

With a roar I grabbed its supporting arm and wrenched, twisting my whole body. Without anything to bear its weight, it rolled with me, leaving us in a tangled mess, but at least it wasn’t on top of me anymore. With a few sharp elbow strikes and wild punches, I found myself scrabbling to my knees and leaping on the monster’s head. It’s rancid fangs bit down onto my hand when I tried to grab it under its chin. I screamed, but simply took hold of its entire lower jaw, my other hand firmly gripping the matted fur on the back of its head. With a sharp wrench, I snapped the thing’s neck, and it collapsed to the ground, dead.

Rolling away from the twitching body, I lay there, catching my breath. My peace was short lived.

Nearby, I could hear more daesce coming. It was by no means a herd–from the whoops and screeches, it sounded like two or three at most–but I had no idea how strong they were, and if this one was any indication, I didn’t want to be caught out-numbered, godly champion or no. Cursing, I fled in the opposite direction of the beasts, deeper into the thick underbrush and low broad trees.

Try as I might, the daesce were closing in. I could hear them crashing through behind me, trampling over everything in wild abandon.

In my desperation, I made the mistake of looking over my shoulder as I ran. That led me to charging straight over a low cliff. I wheeled my arms as I fell through the air, a shout ripping out of my mouth before I crashed and tumbled, head over heels, down the sandy slope to the hard earth down below.

Ye gods!

I stared up at the sky, pain assailing my entire body, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu at the situation.

Get up! What are you doing reminiscing for? They’re coming! Kali roared.

I jerked back up, my eyes wide. She was right. Sliding down the cliff’s steep slope was one of the daesce, a short but muscular brute that looked ready to eat my face. His companion soon appeared, leaping off the cliff with a wild hoot and a slavering mouth. He hit the ground hard, the vibration moving up my feet, and straightened with an almost knowing grin. He was taller, with unusually long arms and a misshapen face.

I backed away from them, and if I had been in my feline form, my hackles would have been raised. The two daesce circled me slowly, their red eyes taking in my petite form. I wondered at their hesitance. This wasn’t normal behavior for the monsters at all. They were ‘attack first, think never’ type creatures. But these two? They were assessing me, their eyes holding an intelligence that shouldn’t have been there.

Kali didn’t like it either. She didn’t say anything, but I suddenly felt the urge to growl deep within my throat.

I could kill these daesce with my vermagus abilities…but wouldn’t that just attract more? I didn’t have time to fight these beasts endlessly.

That’s when a third figure burst over the cliff, landing just behind the two daesce.

I froze, my eyes widening. “E-Elle?”

Continue ReadingChapter 44.3

Chapter 46.3


Elmiryn was sorry. She felt sick with apology. (She felt sick with a lot of things, but chief among these was regret.) Like many times in her life, she hadn’t thought this through. She had trusted her instincts for so long, and they had so often carried her to triumph. All she had wanted was for the others to leave her alone. To hold onto her freedom for just a little longer.

Freedom to see the skies, for the basement would trap her from the stars.

Freedom to run without borders, for the containment circle would seal her in.

Freedom to change her mind, for the others would force her from numbness–

Now, as her wild power slipped from her will, the plants that had sprung up–mutated and made monstrous by a fae power she still barely comprehended–gripped her, held her, and trapped her. But the plants weren’t trying to suffocate her like they were the others. They weren’t wrapping around her neck, squeezing, nor trying to reach deep into her mouth and throat to flower in her lungs. They weren’t trying to unravel her very existence.

She could feel it. The others’ horror. Their desperation.

Elmiryn tried to reign it back. Tried to pull the threads and change the weave of what was happening.

But it wouldn’t change. She tugged and pulled, but the threads had become tangled and taut. Her head ached the harder she tried. The plant threads–glowing translucent lines in her mind’s eye–seemed to pulse tauntingly.

“Fuck,” Elmiryn whispered the word, bleak in its surrender.

Then as the plant vines, thick and rubbery and a putrescent green wrapped about and took her vision, she found herself visited by an entirely new sight. Even with her eyes closed, Elmiryn could sense the pattern of the world and all its weavings…

She could feel the suspended forms of the others, arched and twisted before their struggles were stilled by the green grip of the mutant plants. She could feel the Fake Hakeem (Fake-eem?) and Daedalus pulling at the plants from outside, but they could do nothing. These monstrosities had been created against the laws of time and nature. One moment seeds… the next, hulking giants with mindless murderous intent.

I’ve really done it this time.

Tears welled in Elmiryn’s eyes as a fist of shame and self-disgust clenched in her throat. Was she a coward afraid of the hard road? Was she weak and unable to overthrow her fae nature? Did it matter?

She couldn’t save herself. She couldn’t save anyone.

No, no, no!

From the pit of her stomach, Elmiryn screamed. The sound wrenched her throat raw. Her skin flushed hot. Her muscles ached and burned the more she pushed and pulled against the plant’s embrace. She was distantly aware of the men outside jumping from her primal cry, and she fought for another breath to scream again, only this time it came out more like a banshee screech.

A pulse of energy, like a small fast wave, went out with her piercing voice through the surrounding air’s flowing pattern. In but a moment it was gone, having traveled over the mountains to where she could no longer sense it anymore. It hadn’t really been her intention to send a ripple through the world’s weave, but would someone sense it? It was a dim hope that was fast discarded.

Even if someone did sense it, who would be able to understand it and act on it? Or even act on it in time, for that matter?

When Elmiryn’s cry petered out, she found she had to fight for breath. The plant was squeezing in on her, she realized. Her veins burned in her right bicep. Her left foot started to tingle. She choked on a sob and was very briefly glad that none could see her.

As she fought to take in each humid, musty breath, her mind perked to a ripple in the wind’s flowing weave nearby. It was small and far off at first, perhaps as far as the gates, and coming from the east the woman guessed. More ripples came, faster and faster, and they drew closer, shuddering the air current in their wake, until–

Elmiryn sensed a voice echo around her as though from far off, but the words were calm. Curious, even. It wasn’t correct to say she heard the voice, for it wasn’t actually a sound. It was more like she felt the voice.

A bug? Fat one. Who?

The woman didn’t answer. She didn’t know how. Did the ripples carry some sort of pattern she had somehow missed? The threads moved so fast she couldn’t quite make it out. Was it like the pulse of energy she had just sent out when she screamed? Did she need to make a ripple and send it back?

Uncertain of herself, but desperate, Elmiryn hastily drew up a small pattern of wind and a thread of dust from the ground. To anyone else’s eye, it would have appeared as nothing, but the warrior embedded a desperate message with the dust just before urging the wind eastward as far as she could make it go.

I’m Elmiryn. Can you see me? the message said.

She wasn’t sure if the wind would be swift enough, or if the wind’s pattern was strong enough to even go as far as it needed to. Elmiryn guessed whoever was on the other end of the ripples was very far off.

She felt Quincy had passed out. She thought she heard shouts for an axe, but wasn’t sure the men would act in time to save everyone. She needed to release the others…but she didn’t know how.

The seconds ticked by. Elmiryn felt her hope flicker. Just when she was about to send another message, the ripples returned with a contemplative hum.

Go still.

Go still!? Elmiryn thought with a growl in her throat. She whipped up the wind and dust, and answered:

If you can see this, then you can fucking tell me what to do!

The ripples returned, smaller, less energetic. Sleepy. Too sleepy.

Angry, the woman shot back: Hey!

The response came even slower this time, punctuated by what felt like a yawn. Out of reach. Go still, fat bug.

Elmiryn ground her teeth. One more message: Tell me how to save them, damn you!

Then a wave came, rumbling the earth, and whipping the winds up around them. The woman felt her skin flush cold.

Struggle kills! the entity snapped. The words echoed–almost vibratedGo. Still. Or die! Do not care. Just shut up.

This startled Elmiryn into silence. Was her panic making it worse?

Who are you? She wanted to ask, but a new voice, one more familiar, caught her attention. It came from within her head, like a thought, but it was clearly not her own. Elmiryn perked up at it. The voice, a girl’s, was indistinct, but getting clearer and clearer. Her headache flared.

Lethia Artaud…?


Dear Jydel,

I know I’ve gotten up to my own share of trouble in the last year or so– but these people! My gods! Even when convalescing they can’t seem to help allowing some catastrophe to strike!

(Though to be fair, me voluntarily losing an arm was no easy thing to handle.)

I’ll try to be as detailed as possible about this latest drama while everything is still fresh in my mind, but I am not the storyteller Nyx is. I’ve read enough novels, I suppose, to make a decent account of things…

The latest commotion started in the afternoon. I was resting after another trying session of Daedalus’ brand of doctoring (I know his salves and tonics work wonders, but heavens do they reek and burn!) when I heard shouting. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I recognized it to be Paulo and Elmiryn. When I peeked outside, I was shocked to see that they weren’t just arguing, they were wrestling one another… and not in a sportive sort of way! I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I decided to try and put a stop to it. So I grabbed a rubber mallet amidst the tools and made my way to them.

As I went, I got a sense that things were serious. Elmiryn was cursing and fighting wildly. Her mind was like an angry tangle of snakes vibrating the intellectual cluster so hard it was liable to give me a headache. Paulo looked determined, but I could feel in his aura the worry and fear. Quincy was also there, but she seemed to be only supporting the boy, not a primary actor in whatever was going on. She shared his emotions. Paulo glanced at me as I approached, and right then my target was chosen for me. His power as an enchanter made his awareness too keen for me to avoid. Elle became the only aggressor I could stop. Which was fine, I suppose, because she looked like the one least in control anyway.

Using a technique Syria had taught me (but which I’d not had the confidence to use till now– getting this particular enchantment wrong could lead to a person becoming deaf, blind, or dumb after all) I suppressed portions of Elmiryn’s awareness to the point that she could not easily detect me. But even as wild as she was, the closer I got, the more she suspected something was there. She nearly swiped me in the head at one point!

Paulo and Quincy had the good sense not to give me away. Then WHAM! I hit Elmiryn in the head with the mallet. It was a strong blow, but no worse than a good punch. Elmiryn dropped and I revealed myself to her.

I’d like to say that was the end of the matter. That everyone calmed down and worked out their differences. Gods, I’d have settled for a truce! Of course it wasn’t that simple. When is it ever? Sometimes I wonder if this group would have benefited greatly from a course in conflict resolution. At the mere mention of therapy, my head must duck their rebukes!

The trouble was explained to me. Paulo and Quincy were performing an intervention. The time had come, they said, for Elmiryn to quit her dependence on drinks.

But Elmiryn’s fae nature was not willing.

I could feel unnatural energy pulse through the soil as I tried to reply to something Quincy had said, but my voice came out of my right ear in reverse. My stomach dropped, and all I could see was searing bright colors. The ground cracked open, the unnatural energy rising up, and I felt things grow explosively. Before I knew it, I was entangled by monstrous vines. They gripped us all like giant hands!

They started to suffocate me. Squeezed my still-healing stump for an arm. In my dwindling consciousness, I did the only thing I could think to do– I retreated inward, inducing a dream-like state on myself so as to buy myself time. I didn’t imagine anything elaborate. Just an empty white space where I stood as I last remembered myself– no discernible ground or sky to speak of. It didn’t need to be fancy, I needed only its function.

The interesting thing is, Syria didn’t teach me this. Elmiryn did.

You see, when my mistress had me observing the others in the Other Place, she used her power to reveal Elle had created a kind of… lucid dream that she could access at will. Elmiryn did this to escape her circumstances at first, but there was an unintended effect that she later came to rely on: time moves more quickly in dreams, allowing for more time to think.

Now in my own lucid dream, I fretted over a solution. How could I get Elmiryn to stop this madness? How could I protect myself and the others?

Then Paulo’s ishin stumbled in.

More like BURST in, the fool.

I tell you, Jydel, that boy is as reckless as he is stubborn! How many times have I told him to set aside his powers until he could be trained? His essence nearly overwhelmed me as he barreled into my dream state! Into my bloody mind!

“Lethia, she’s killing us!” he yelled. Oh the headache that caused…

“Not if YOU kill us first! Paulo what are you even doing in my head?” I snapped at him.

He crossed his arms and glowered at me. “My apologies, lia. I thought the situation warranted a little initiative.” He swiped at his nose with his thumb and smirked gallingly. “And anyway, your precious mental barriers were down.”

Instead of rising to his obvious baiting, I took to pacing. “Now that you mention it… If you were so easily able to enter, then that means unconsciousness can’t be far for me. Damn! I thought I’d retreated here sooner.”

“So what shall we do?” Paulo asked. “Maybe we can pay Elmiryn’s mind a visit?”

I scoffed. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Elmiryn’s mind is like an upside down whirlwind of bat dung and angry mongooses vomiting rainbows. If we try to enter into her thoughts, we could lose our minds.”

“Well we can’t stay here! Time is still passing out there, and we’ll die if we take too long!”

“I know that! Just… give me a moment, will you?”

Paulo’s pressuring didn’t help my focus, but he was right. Every minute that passed was another second closer to death in the real world. Give or take. I hadn’t exactly gotten this lucid dreaming down perfectly.

We had to reach out to Elmiryn. She was the only one who could make this stop. Could we pull her into my dreamstate? Doubtful. Only enchanters could visit one another’s mind at will. Delving with our ishin into Elmiryn’s consciousness felt like such a gamble, but I was doing a poor job of coming up with alternatives…

“All right,” I sighed, looking at Paulo. “We have to try and connect with Elmiryn. Perhaps if we can combine our ishin–”

“Our what?

Jydel, I tell you, never have I begged the gods for more patience than right then. We were on the brink of dying, for heaven’s sake, we didn’t have time for enchanting lessons! But what could I do? With my dwindling consciousness came less power. I was going to need Paulo’s help.

Ishin,” I started, “It’s a measurable power unique to enchanters. Think of it like an extension of our consciousness.”

“Oh,” Paulo said. The look on his face suggested he didn’t get it at all and I had to take a very deep breath.

I tried again: “Imagine ishin as an invisible arm extending from your head. When you want to reach into someone else’s head, you extend your ishin. Clearly, you have that basic ability down or we wouldn’t be talking. Now we just need to do that together, but to Elmiryn. Preferably with more care! Or–”

“Or we go crazy?” Paulo finished with a grimace.

I shrugged. “Or we could die. Or we could go into a coma first, and then die. Or we could make her go into a coma, and then die–”

“All right, all right, I get it! Careful is better!” He scratched his head and frowned down at his boots. “Mind, uh… showing me how?”

I nodded. I didn’t want to, but I suddenly felt self-conscious. I’d never actually taught anyone something before. Advised on life matters, maybe, but I’d never fully instructed anyone on anything!

Fighting for aplomb, I beckoned Paulo closer. “Come here.” He did so. I tried to look at anything but his face– his shoulder, his stomach, his boots– “Now hold my hand.”

“You mean your only hand?” he muttered.

Trust Paulo to go picking at old wounds.

I chose to ignore his dig and tried not to flinch when I felt his calloused grip. Even as a figurative sensation, the reactive jolt that went through my spirit was… strong.

I cleared my throat. “Now close your eyes. Feel the thoughts of those around us. Find Elmiryn’s–”

“How can you miss her? She’s practically screaming over there!”

“Well it ought to be easier to focus on her then!” I snapped. I took another breath, and then said as calmly as possible, “Seek out her thoughts. Imagine yourself pulling closer to her. Slowly. Feel my hand and know that I’m with you.”

Jydel, have I ever described entering into another person’s mind before? It can be a messy affair, but doing it with someone else can be even messier.

The best that I can explain it to non-enchanters is that each person’s mind is like a cloud of thoughts. This is their “mindscape.” The thoughts can be understood as images, or sometimes like floating words from a page. Whatever thoughts that has a person’s attention the most will usually be found in the center of this cloud. And then, of course, there are those buried thoughts or memories that a person protects with jealousy. Most do it unconsciously for psychic wounds, like abuse suffered as children, but there are others who have trained to protect areas of their mind from prying. Not that I’ve tried it, but I suspect Quincy and Hakeem to have such protected memories. It’s rare that I can even catch a stray thought from them.

Now the deeper one presses into another person’s consciousness, the more that person’s animus will try to push them back out. I’ve been taught to understand them as matrices that thicken and expand, like a wire mesh that sieves out unwanted visitors.

Note, that is what a normal person’s mind is like. Elmiryn’s mind is far from normal.

I could feel Paulo tense up next to me as our joined ishin crossed the outer barrier of Elle’s mind. It wasn’t pleasant for me either. It was like… diving into scalding hot water. After the initial burn wore off, we then had to dodge a wild array of ideas and memories. They twitched and zoomed about like angry hummingbirds. I avoided these as best I could– paying attention to any one thought too long draws you into it, after all. Unfortunately, Paulo was less disciplined.

“So this is what Elmiryn was like when she was younger…” he murmured, his eyes fixed on something I couldn’t see.

His presence started to drift from me, drawn to an old memory of childhood. I pulled his ishin away from it, and said as stern as I could, “Focus! Ignore these stray thoughts! We need to press in deeper if we want Elmiryn to hear us!”

Paulo at least had the good sense to feel sorry. It thrummed from him to me, and my annoyance shrank. As I write this, Jydel, I must admit that though the boy is naive and clumsy in his enchanting powers, he has a proficiency in it. I am both impressed and a little jealous at his natural talent. With proper training, he could be a force to be reckoned with.

In fact, it was because of Paulo that we noticed the curious white square at all.

“What’s that?” He exclaimed, pointing at the blazing shape near Elmiryn’s core thoughts. “It’s not like the other thoughts.”

“That’s because it’s not a thought,” I replied with delight. “Let’s get closer!”

As we delved deeper to the center of the woman’s mindscape, the expected reaction from her animus started. The strange thing was, the expanding matrices were warped and twisted, allowing for us to slip through their defenses with ease. While it served in our favor, I was worried.

Without proper psychic defenses, anything could pierce into Elmiryn’s brain. I made a note that this had to be mended, and soon. Her mindscape was enough of a mess as it was.

When we neared the white square, I let out a sigh of relief.

It wasn’t just a square–it was a window. Upon looking inside, Paulo let out a gasp of astonishment. He’d never heard about Elmiryn’s dream realm. Like my own, it was vast in its seeming lack of boundaries–no walls, ground, or ceiling. But that’s where the similarities ended. Elmiryn’s world was a wavering place of shadows–as though light were filtering through rippling water. It was dense with sparrows and black kittens, all falling horizontally in the same direction, but in slow motion.

Elmiryn had disavowed being responsible for the helpless creatures. I struggled to remember if she had ever attempted to make them go away.

“What the hell is this?” Paulo murmured.

“Come on, we need to go in,” I said, feeling breathless.

I tried to enter, but Paulo held me back, his ishin pulsing with alarm. “Woah, are you crazy!?”

“You said it yourself earlier, we haven’t the time!” I pulled at him, but he resisted still. Clearly, I had to show him.

With all the strength I could muster (and I could feel that fading fast) I called into this window. “Elmiryn!”

My voice didn’t echo. Silence followed. My grip on Paulo tightened as I tried to bolster my ishin. I could feel my body in the real world losing its grip.

Paulo started to pull us away, and I didn’t have the strength left to stop him. It was all I could do to keep this mental connection active at all.

Then we heard her:

“Lethia? Lethia Artaud!?”

“I’m here!” I called. My voice was weaker, but I was smiling. Jydel, our salvation was at hand!

Paulo grumbled but followed me in through the window. Once fully inside Elmiryn’s dream realm, the shadows buffeted us like choppy waves.

“Still think this was a good idea?” Paulo snarled. His hands gripped my shoulders tightly as I lost my sense of balance and knocked into him, a particularly rowdy streak of shadow having struck my hip.

“We’ll have to see,” I answered. “Elmiryn? Come and still the shadows please!”

“Done,” Elmiryn said, suddenly right before us.


Paulo and Lethia’s presence in her strange little mindfuck was beyond what she could hope for. Who better to put her back in control of the situation then the two people capable of forcing order on her mind?

“I can’t make it stop,” Elmiryn blurted, suddenly feeling out of breath. “I tried–but the pattern I pulled has gotten all tight and knotted up and–” the shadows around them shivered and started to close in, forcing her to shove them back.

“But how can we help, Elmiryn?” Paulo asked. “We came here to ask you to stop this, but if you aren’t in control, what can we possibly do?”

“I need to relax.” Elmiryn thumped a hand on her chest. “I have to stop feeling like I do! I don’t know if it’ll work, it didn’t explain it to me but–”

“It? What is ‘it’? What told you this?” Lethia interjected.

“I don’t know!” Elmiryn snapped. Her hands wheeled through the air. “It was a, uh, spirit or something!” She stomped her foot and buried her hands in her hair. “All I know is I need to calm the fuck down! Now! My emotions are probably what’s turning everything into a mess!”

“Nevermind following the dubious advice of ‘spirits’,” Lethia even made air quotations with her fingers, “What you’re asking is quite impossible!”

“It is?” Elmiryn and Paulo asked her simultaneously.

Lethia glared at them both in annoyance. “Yes! It took my and Paulo’s ishin combined just to pierce deep enough into your mind to be able to communicate with you! I’m afraid with our consciousness fading, we simply don’t have enough strength to do what you are asking, Elle!”

“Well we have to do something!” Paulo argued. “Or else what are we here for?”

“I’m with Paulo. You maybe don’t know it, but I’m just as trapped as you two are,” Elmiryn added.

“Serves you right for using your fae magic on us,” the boy hissed at her before turning away.

“Enough of that!” Lethia chided. “I need to think!” She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples.

Elmiryn sighed, her eyes sweeping over this abstract corner of her mind. “I’ve really messed up.” She felt the rippling shadows flow in around her, and she didn’t stop them as they gathered about her feet and legs.

She needed to stop this… but she couldn’t. They were trapped, because of her.

The shadows built up around her, and other thoughts came. Thoughts of her mother. Thoughts of her father. Thoughts of Nyx.

I’ve ruined everything.” This she had spoken only in her head, but given where they were, it echoed all about them. Loud. Accusing.

The shadows came up over her head. They carried her up and away, bumping into the helpless forms of the kittens and sparrows.

“The boy is right. I deserve this,” she murmured.


It’s difficult focusing when you are in someone else’s mind–doubly so if you are in a foreign mindscape partially on the power of yet another’s will. Paulo’s growing unease was clouding my ability to assemble coherent ideas. One would come close to me, only to shiver away on concerns of death.

When I heard Elmiryn murmur that she deserved what was happening to her, I didn’t think much of it–self-pity is not uncommon in these situations, particularly for ego-centric types like Elle–but when I finally opened my eyes again to glance at her, I remembered something I had learned long ago.

Dreams are simply mirrors reflecting an individual’s life as-is.  A nightmare, however, is a figurative tool used by the animus to catch the attention of the intellect. People have nightmares for many reasons. Though the nightmare may frighten or disturb–this does not mean its only purpose is to warn of immediate or future danger. It could simply be an attempt on the part of the animus to bring about a fundamental change in the intellect.  It could also be an attempt by the animus to answer what the intellect cannot.

All this time, we thought we were in Elmiryn’s lucid dream. But what if this was actually Elmiryn’s lucid nightmare?

Right then, everything in this seemingly chaotic place had new meaning. The shadows, the kittens and sparrows, even the endless sense of void… Elmiryn’s human mind was trying to speak to her! Wasn’t it interesting how she seemed to access it at these critical moments? Jydel, I was willing to bet everything that this revelation held the answer we needed…

And bet everything I did, because if I couldn’t get Elmiryn to face what was at the heart of her problems in the next few minutes, we would all be dead.

“Elmiryn, why kittens and sparrows?” I shouted up at her. “Why are they falling slowly through shadows?”

“Why not?” was her despondent reply. The shadows were so thick around her her, I couldn’t see her face.

“It matters because this place was not created in a void! It arose from your subconscious! Your human subconscious! I think it’s rooted in the very fear that’s keeping you from regaining control!”

Paulo leaned in and whispered to me, “Where are you going with this?”

I waved an arm at the small animals falling around us. “It’s weakness, Paulo. Vulnerability. Defeat. Except it’s drawn out to perpetuity. These kittens and sparrows fall, helpless, presumably to their doom, and nothing saves them. Kittens, black kittens. Remind you of anyone?”

“Nyx,” he said. For once, the boy was quick to grasp on to the matter, Jydel!

I nodded. “A symbol for potential loss. She’s afraid of losing Nyx. Or failing to protect her. Or both. I’m afraid I’m less certain about the sparrow. My initial guess was that it stood for Quincy. She was frequently referred to as ‘the fledgeling’ in her youth… But it seems unlikely, even when taking into account the story Nyx shared from that man Tobias. It lacks narrative significance to Elmiryn’s psychological identity–”

“Her family,” Paulo murmured. He looked up at Elmiryn, his eyes wide. “When I got a glimpse into her childhood memory, I saw it. Lethia, sparrows were part of her family crest!”

I grabbed him, excited. “Really? What else did you see in the memory?”

“Her mother. She was in the study. The crest was on the wall above the fireplace.”

“But what was her mother doing, Paulo?”

He put a hand to his head and squeezed his eyes shut. His form wavered. My grip on him tightened. He was starting to fade from consciousness.

“She was…” the boy struggled to get the next words out. “Painting. A tree. And… drinking wine, I think?”

There. It was small, Jydel, but it was something to go on. If the kittens represented what Elmiryn feared losing in the future, then the sparrows stood for what Elmiryn had already lost in the past.

I looked back up at Elmiryn and tried to quell my shock at seeing the shadows had all but condensed around her, till it was like she was in the center of a black hole. Somehow, the direction the animals were falling had suddenly changed.

They had changed to fall toward her.

Hadn’t she always had to fight to keep the shadows from closing in on her in the past? Her fae nature made it possible for her to control the nightmare to some extent, but in doing so, it stopped the message her human subconscious was trying to scream at her. The shadows that she was always fending off? Jydel, those shadows were her guilt and self-loathing.

“Elmiryn!” I cried out. “Your mother always counseled you to hide your true feelings until it was safe to express them! But your father made certain you never would be safe, didn’t he?”

No answer. My body started to tingle all over. Slowly, so very slowly, Paulo and I began to float back up to the window. Our strength was leaving us. I had one shot at breaking through to her before all was lost.

Every word became harder and harder to make.

“So you hid your fear! Your anger! Your sadness! You bottled it up inside, just like your parents taught you to do! You never could rely on anyone! You never could trust anyone! And how did they handle that kind of stress themselves, Elle? How?”

Still no response.

I was feeling sluggish. Elmiryn was growing smaller and smaller from us.

“They drank! All the time! When you saw your father in the Other Place as a drunkard, you felt ashamed! Not just because he was disgracing himself, but because you were face to face with a family practice that you were a part of! And did it work? No! Misfortune still befell them! You couldn’t protect your mother. You couldn’t meet your father’s demands! They became lost! And yet with Nyx, you still try to do the same thing, don’t you? The drinking and the self-denial are one and the same.”

Elmiryn said not a word. My words may have slurred, but I fought to keep going as our ascent to the window began to speed up:

“Elle, that practice will kill you! It could kill all of us! Your parents were wrong! It’s not your fault what happened to them! You can’t stuff your feelings down! You can’t drown them with drinks either! If you’re afraid, that’s okay! If you need help, that’s okay! This is a nightmare, Elle, do you hear me!? A nightmare! It’s time to stop fighting it and let it end–!

And then we were gone.


Elmiryn felt tired. Tired in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Even being continuously drunk, sleep had escaped her, leaving her to wander about the fields at night. Just like those days spent lost in the wild, with only the daesce for company, her every waking hour had become–

A nightmare.


This place was a nightmare. How had she not seen it before?

Yes, of course.

Elmiryn nodded sleepily, feeling herself growing colder, feeling her body in the real world growing fainter.

She thought she had intentionally made this place. But how could she have when she had not even half the control over her fae powers as she did now? No, this place was something her subconscious had dug up. Her human side. But the fae in her had seized it, twisted it, and she had mistakenly assumed it was hers to command. It wasn’t really. Not in the way that counted.

Without realizing it, Elmiryn had managed to pause her own nightmare. It was like a stage play forced to remain in the same scene, the actors stuck in the same places, doing and saying the same things, as if unto infinity. She had done this and turned her nightmare into some kind of twisted refuge.

A place to hide when she was afraid. At a loss. Desperate.

“This is a nightmare, Elle, do you hear me!? A nightmareIt’s time to stop fighting it and let it end–!

Lethia, sounding drunk herself, had hollered these words mere moments ago. Elmiryn wasn’t quite sure how long ago that was.

Go. Still. Or die! Do not care. Just shut up.

That’s what the strange spirit had said. But that was part of the problem, wasn’t it? She was thinking too much to let things end. To truly go still.

Elmiryn was accustomed to fighting her way through her problems. Sometimes even laughing her way through them. But perhaps Lethia and the strange spirit were right. It wasn’t about not feeling certain things. It was about accepting them. And it wasn’t as if she hadn’t done this before. Hadn’t she stopped fighting Nadi the river guardian all that time ago outside of Gamath? What had allowed her to do that? To see that she had to accept what Nadi was trying to do just to reveal the lies Meznik had contaminated her with?

Stop fighting. Go still.

She needed to change her perspective.

Elmiryn gently touched the ground, flat on her back. When she got over her surprise that there was a ground, she sat up, and the shadows sloughed off of her like dark mud. It was daytime, but all around her was a thick fog. As she gazed down at herself in wonder, she saw that there were mangled lumps in the mud. She picked one of these up and gasped at the feel of twiggy scaled legs and stiff rachises of feathers. A dead sparrow, its eyes clouded white and gray. She set this down in her lap, and with two hands, she carefully picked up another lump. This one was black with matted fur that she tried vainly to wipe clean, her throat clenching.

With gentle hands, she picked up the sparrow and held it up alongside the tiny kitten.

“I wasn’t enough,” she barely managed to murmur, her voice hitching.

A wet sound, like raw meat dropping in porridge, tickled her ear. When Elmiryn turned to look for the cause, her skin went cold.

A kitten struck the dark mud. Then another. Then a sparrow.

She shook her head, tears clouding her eyes. “No.” One struck her on the shoulder. Another bounced off her back.

Elmiryn hugged the two dead animals to her chest and ducked her head as corpses rained down on her. They piled around her, and she curled up, praying for the torment to stop. They came up over her head, then steadily piled on her, pushing her down into the mud.

She couldn’t breathe.

She cried out a single word.


Quincy was as taken aback as everyone else when the monstrous plants erupted from the ground and seized them. Before she could get to her magic bag, the vines gripped her arms and wrenched them back. They squeezed her chest and throat as little green creepers spread across her face. They pried at her lips, and she clenched her jaw shut. The creepers webbed over mouth so thickly, she couldn’t even catch breaths through her teeth. Her lungs screamed, and she felt her head throb from the poor blood flow.

Unable to take it anymore, she wrenched her mouth open and took a desperate gasp of air–

The vines seized the top and bottom of her jaw, wrenching them apart till it hurt, and then the creepers invaded her mouth, her throat, her lungs.

Unconsciousness felt like a sweet mercy.

Then someone was shaking her. Quincy coughed raggedly, spitting out bits of plant and dirt from deep within her throat. Her body ached. Her lips were moist. When she managed to open her eyes, she saw Hakeem gazing down at her, his face ashen.

Mweze! Breathe!”

She tried to reply to him, but only coughed more.

“Just breathe,” he said to her in his native tongue, stroking back her hair.

Quincy finally started to register the sounds of the others coughing and gasping.

After a long moment, she gripped her husband’s hand and rasped, “The plants–?”

“Gone,” Hakeem said, his brow knotting. “They simply… vanished. Back into the ground, where they came from.

Quincy made to sit up. Hakeem pursed his lips as if to show what he thought of this decision, but he helped her anyway. The brunette gazed about her, her eyes blinking in amazement.

The ground had been churned violently beneath their feet. Paulo was on all fours with Daedalus awkwardly reaching down to pat his head. Lethia was still on her back, but was moving–she was trying vainly to fend off Argos and his anxious face-licking. And in the center of the destruction…

“Elmiryn,” Quincy said, her eyes narrowing.

The Fiamman warrior was kneeling in a small pit, her back slouched as she stared down at her hands.

“Elmiryn!” Quincy said louder. Though spots erupted in her vision and her limbs felt cold and shaky, she fought to get to her feet. “How could you–!?”

“Help,” Elmiryn said. Her voice was flat, dispassionate.

Quincy’s tirade petered out as she felt a surge of surprise. “Help?”

The redhead turned to look up at her, and Quincy’s heart wrenched.

Elmiryn’s eyes were red and puffy, and their gaze was far off.

“I am… afraid,” she said slowly. Then she closed her eyes again and said louder, “I need help.”

“Elmiryn we were trying to help you.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I…” Elmiryn trailed off as Lethia sat up. Her eyes closed and she turned her face away again. “Lethia and Paulo helped me to realize… that I’ve been putting off a nightmare.”

“Did you finish it?” Lethia asked, a small cough chasing her words. Argos sat close behind her, casting her in shadow.

“I stopped fighting it.” Elmiryn said with a slow nod. “I let it finish. I saw that… I wasn’t enough.”

“Enough for what?” Quincy asked, daring to take a step forward. Hakeem put a hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged him off. She needed to know if this was possible. She needed to know if Elmiryn would cooperate.

Elmiryn let out a shaky breath and stood. One of her feet was bare in the dirt after she lost it in the struggle to get away from Paulo. She wiggled her toes once, then said with head bowed, “I’m not enough to do this alone. I never was. I need help. I’m afraid.” Slowly she turned and held out her arms with wrists touching. “Tie me up. Knock me out. Drag me down there. Do whatever you have to.”

Quincy crossed her arms. “We tried!

“Quincy–” Lethia started, but the wizard silenced her with a wave of her hand. Setting her eyes back on Elmiryn, Quincy went on: “You weren’t in a mindless fae-driven frenzy when you attacked us, Elmiryn. When you made those things grow. You fought against our help. I want to know that the human part of you will stop fighting us! Otherwise, this will be for nothing!”

“Quincy, dejala. She’s asking for us to help her now!” Paulo argued.

The brunette shot him a withering look. “Like when she accepted your help before?”


“She’s right,” Elmiryn interjected. She looked at Quincy and held up her hands. “You’re right. I wasn’t completely out of control. I fucked up.” She clasped her hands together and pressed them to her forehead. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I want this. I do.” Her face crumpled and Quincy’s heart wrenched again. “I’m tired, but I can’t sleep. I hear voices whispering to me. Everything I see feels like a lie. None of you trust me anymore. The thought of giving up drink and facing all of that scared me, still does, because what will keep me from losing my mind without it?” Then her lips, quivering, fought to spread across her face in a wan smile. “The nightmare showed me… I am not enough to keep the people I care about safe.”

“You were not enough to visit misfortune on your family either!” Paulo interjected hotly.

“And believe it or not, you are not enough of an asshat to completely turn Nyx away,” Lethia added gently.

What did they see in Elmiryn’s head? Quincy wondered as she gazed back and forth at the teens.

Elmiryn closed her eyes and fat tears spilled down her ruddy cheeks. She wiped at them, smearing dirt on her face before shrugging helplessly. “I am afraid, and I am not enough. When I realized that, the pattern I used to make the plants just unknotted itself.” She looked at Quincy and held out her hand. “I know I mean it this time because the plants wouldn’t have gone unless I stopped fighting those two facts.”

Quincy took another step forward, one hand tentatively raising. Her eyes were fastened on Elmiryn’s. “You’re afraid? You are not enough?” she said as one seeking to confirm.

The redhead chuckled, but somewhere in the middle of her weak laugh a small sob broke through and more tears fell. “Ergo, I need some gods damned help!”

With sure steps, Quincy cleared the last remaining distance between them and took Elmiryn’s hand. She looked at the others. Lethia was on her feet. Paulo approached on the redhead’s other side. With a glance at Hakeem, she nodded.

Together, she walked with Elmiryn and Paulo back to the tower. They guided her down the steps to the cellar where the candles kept the space lit.

As they approached the spell circle, Elmiryn spoke:

“I’m not sure what I’ll do or say once my fae-side starts to take over.” She looked at them both, her eyes earnest. “Remember that it isn’t really me. Remember that I want this.”

Quincy patted her shoulder. They were toeing the line of the circle now. “We know, Elle. And we won’t leave you alone down here. Someone will always be with you. We’ll take turns.”

Elmiryn stared down at the line, her brow glistening with sweat. For a harrowing moment, the wizard wondered if she needed to shove her in.

Then the warrior crossed the line. Behind her, Quincy made the necessary hand gestures to complete the ritual spell–tracing in the air a circle, a slash, then naudiz, the rune of need and constraint.

There was a small rush of air. Quincy looked up at the ceiling where she had placed additional protective spells. Just in case Elmiryn, in a frenzy, tried to escape through the floor. It had almost seemed overly cautious before, but now she was relieved she had thought of it.

“I’ll stay with you first,” Quincy said. She looked at Paulo who was gazing at the woman with a look she couldn’t quite identify. Awe? Pity? “Paulo, can you please bring blankets and a pillow–?”

“Not that I won’t appreciate those, but I should warn you… I don’t sleep anymore,” Elmiryn said.

Quincy frowned at the other woman. “When you said that, I thought you meant insomnia?”

Elmiryn shook her head. Even from where she stood, the wizard could see the Fiamman’s body clench up. “I mean I never sleep. And I don’t really feel hot or cold. I think… I think the fae never did either.”

Oh. Thinking of that, now the wizard could better understand Elmiryn’s initial resistance.

Having to be down here, in this cellar all night? Alone?

“I’ll take first night watch then,” Paulo volunteered. He had lingered by the stairs, a warm smile on his face. “Oye, this place is gonna need a table and chairs! Maybe I can bring a deck of cards?”

“I’ll take tomorrow night!” Lethia shouted down the stairs.

“No you won’t!” Quincy shouted up, as Paulo snickered on his way.

“No she most certainly will not,” Daedalus confirmed as he came down the stairs past the boy. The man stopped on the last step and pursed his lips. He folded his hands behind his back and said, “Elmiryn, Quincy and I believe we have a regimen that might help your body quit its drink dependence. Given the severity of your dependence, we have tried to lengthen the usual treatment mortals must go through. If we are being honest, however…” He sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “There is no telling what will happen. Normal individuals may suffer seizures as early as the first day. This can quickly be followed by hallucinations, fever, rapid heartbeat, respiratory complications, and of course, heart complications. I have what we need to get started, but I’m afraid Quincy will have to be the one to begin administering the needed medicines at first. I have no choice but to risk going into town to obtain the remainder of what we need.”

Quincy bit back a rebuke. She wasn’t sure how well-timed this was, but she supposed Elmiryn was in the containment circle, so it wasn’t as if they were going to scare her off now. It also wasn’t fair to subject her to such rigorous treatment without first informing her.

Clearing her throat, the wizard added, “Our hope is that within the next two to four weeks you might recover. It… It won’t be easy, Elmiryn. But we’ll help you through it. If we succeed, then this will be worth it.”

“If we don’t succeed–” Elmiryn started.

“We will.”

“But if we don’t,” the redhead continued, louder, “Then you have to promise me something.”

Quincy crossed her arms, her brow tensing. “I won’t promise until I hear what it is.”

Don’t you dare…

Elmiryn’s cerulean eyes met hers. “You have to kill me.”

The wizard closed her eyes. Damn it, Elmiryn. “No.”

“You have to, Quincy.”

Quincy shook her head, her eyes still closed.

“Do you honestly think we have two weeks for me to get better? A month? Our time here is running short. Sooner or later, someone will find us and try to hurt us. How are you going to move me? How are you going to get me to cooperate when I’m frothing at the mouth and trying to kill you all?”

“We’re doing this to save you, idiot. How can I agree to this?” Quincy’s voice became hoarse. She opened her eyes again to find Elmiryn was standing at the line, her eyes blazing, her fists clenched. Tears had cut lines through the dirt on her face. The woman was like an open wound as the wizard had never seen before. Quincy said next, almost desperately, “Nyx won’t let us!”

“She’s half the reason I’m asking,” Elmiryn murmured. “If this treatment is going to be as hard as you say, I may not be the same at the end of it. I may be even worse. Letting me out, or even leaving me here, would be a mistake.”

“You’re too hard-headed to let this beat you, Elle,” Quincy hissed back. Her lip quivered. “Don’t put this on me.”

“No one else will do it,” Elmiryn pressed. “It has to be you.”

Damn you!”

“Promise me. With Daedalus here as a witness. Promise.”

Quincy jumped as she felt Daedalus hand on her shoulder. She looked at him wildly and was surprised to see his tender gaze.

“Quincy, Elmiryn has made a strong argument. Remaining here even the minimum approximate time has its risks,” he said.

“It’s easy for you to say, elf!” Quincy snapped, brushing his hand away. “You hardly know the woman!”

“She almost killed us mere moments ago. What will she do if the fae in her takes over and she’s nursing hatred for our denying her addiction? Can we risk letting her free or abandoning her when the times comes to flee this place?” His words were gentle, but they felt cold.

“You don’t know her!” Quincy yelled. Tears were clouding her eyes. “She is a crass, foul-mouthed git, but she has helped us! Each and every one of us! She has helped me, and that’s why I cannot possibly kill my–” she broke off and pressed her lips tight.

“You cannot kill your friend,” Daedalus said with an understanding nod.

“Quincy,” Elmiryn called softly.

The wizard looked away, toward the stairs. She wiped the unshed tears from her eyes with her sleeve.

The Fiamman tried again. “Quincy.”

With a rough sigh, Quincy finally looked at Elmiryn.

The other woman was smiling. “Believe it or not, I don’t have many friends. So I’m happy you’re one of them,” she said.

“Then how can you ask me this?” Quincy asked. It almost came out as a whine.

“The same way I can say that the man you think is your husband is not, and that the real Hakeem is alive and somewhere safe.” Elmiryn looked down. “I’m sorry I didn’t say it sooner. I didn’t really know what to do. But now that I’m in here, there’s nothing I can do but warn you before I’m incapable of thinking straight.”

Quincy’s mouth fell open. Her arms, which had been tightly crossed all this time, fell slack at her sides. She looked at Daedalus and found he was busy glaring suspiciously at Elmiryn.

“How do you know this?” Daedalus asked her.

“His pattern,” the redhead replied readily. “I can see the weave of the world. His pattern is not Hakeem’s. In fact, it’s not even human.”

“Elmiryn, you are making a dangerous accusation!” Quincy was shaking. Her skin felt cold, but her fists clenched tight. “If the man above isn’t Hakeem, then who is he? What is he?”

“A golem. It was sent from Izma, I think.”

“To do what? Spy on us?”

Elmiryn shook her head. “Maybe to split us up. Maybe just to hurt you.”

“This is insane,” Quincy huffed. She paced once along the front of the containment circle, then she jabbed a finger at Elmiryn. “I don’t believe it!”

The Fiamman rubbed at her face and groaned. “Look, I figured you wouldn’t! But I had to tell you, do you see? Because I care what happens to you and the others! I need you to be on your guard!”

“So that I can kill if you necessary?” Quincy snapped.

“So that you jackasses don’t get backstabbed!” Elmiryn threw her hands up in the air. “Don’t you get it!? What I’m asking for and what I just told you are coming from the same place– making sure all of you are safe!” She clasped her hands together again. “Do you need me to beg again? Fuck, I’ll get down on my knees if I have to! But you’ve got to understand that what I’m asking is almost like a final wish! I won’t be in my right mind soon! I can already hear the whispers! Just do it! Just promise me while I’m still capable of understanding you!”

Quincy paced again. She felt faint and ill.

When she heard Paulo start to come down the stairs with the pillow and blankets, she felt weary beyond her years.

The words came almost as if on their own.

“All right, Elmiryn. I promise.”

Continue ReadingChapter 46.3

Chapter 47.2

Author’s Note: First new update to the new website! Here you’ll see the pace of the story shift a little bit as I try out a new format. In an attempt to get back on the horse and make updates easier, I’ve decided to do shorter segments twice a week for a time. Because of this, the story may adopt an almost “slice of life” feel to it. Please let me know what you think!


I slept in the room Nyx had been using since arriving at this blasted tower.

The bed felt strange. Uncomfortable. After wasting what precious little night I had left tossing and turning, I gave up and moved to the floor with just a pillow and my back against the wall. 

I only remember shutting my eyes. When I opened them again, the suns had traveled far across the sky and the shadows in the room had grown long. It must have been late afternoon.

I rose and reached my hands high up over my head in a stretch. I paused as I looked up.

My hands

I had hands.

I lowered these before my eyes and furrowed my brow.

So seldom had I assumed this form, and yet I moved with a familiarity that came second-hand from Nyx. It took only a little self-awareness to recognize how foreign this actually was. 

I also felt tall. Not just that. Exposed, too.

As a beast, I walked on all fours, with my belly turned to the ground. Baring my stomach to anyone was a sign of trust. Or, when fighting a threat, a highly defensible position. You could use all four paws to claw and kick with. 

Right now, I didn’t feel particularly trusting of anyone, but I didn’t really want a fight either. My exposed belly fostered uneasy aggression in me, even standing alone in this room.

I wrapped my arms around my stomach to try and quell the feeling as I descended down the spiral stairs to the kitchen.

From my dream-like observation through Nyx’s eyes, I knew that Quincy was usually here, preparing the meals for the day. She wasn’t anywhere to be found. 

Annoyed by her absence, I next crossed the foyer to the study, but she still wasn’t there. Hakeem was, however. He was sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace with his back to me, reading a book.

My nose flared from the archway, and after sorting out the ashy aroma of the fireplace and the moldy stench of the old shelving, I picked out the man’s scent. 

He smelled like the Hakeem I remembered. But Elmiryn was certain he was a pretender. Some evil creation sent by Izma.

It was clear that Quincy didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t really know what to make of the man before me. He didn’t appear to be an immediate threat, but my instincts still murmured to be on my guard. I listened.

I made a point of dragging my feet on the floor as I approached the man. “Where is your wife?” I asked.

Hakeem turned his head. “Oh! Good morning, Nyx. You slept in quite a bit. Arrived late, did you?”

“Not Nyx,” I growled. “I’m Kali.”

Hakeem’s dark eyes went wide. “I see.”

“Where is Quincy?” I asked again.

The man’s gaze cast down and a worried crease appeared on his strong brow. “She’s… ill from overindulging. Quincy has never been a heavy drinker.”

I rubbed my stomach, trying still to make calm my crackling nerves. Even as I did this, I couldn’t help but snap, “I didn’t ask about her wellbeing, I asked where she was!

Hakeem looked at me, clearly startled. “I think she is still in the barn.”

“And has Daedalus returned yet?”

He shook his head. “No. I confess I find it odd. With luck the old elf is safe. His medicine will be needed soon.” The crease in Hakeem’s brow deepened as his eyes took on a shadow of worry. “I went down to relieve Paulo of his watch, but the boy refused. I tried to insist, but he said Elmiryn would react badly to my presence…”

Hakeem looked at me and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as his dark gaze became uncomfortably focused. “Do you have any idea why she would dislike my help?”

I pretended to think about it by placing both hands on my hips and turning my eyes up in thought. I had to be careful. The vermagus powers I shared with Nyx could give away the truth. 

After a short moment, I gave a small shake of my head. “No.”

The man hummed. His eyes turned down to his book again.

I didn’t want to stay here and continue pretending everything was normal. I turned on my heel and started for the front door.

Outside the air was so fresh and pleasant that I couldn’t resist stopping and taking a deep breath. The tension in me eased, and I finally let my arms fall away from my stomach.

I looked out over the swaying field, then to the gray-blue mountains beyond. The peaks cut up into the azure sky, some reaching so high as to vanish into the scattered clouds.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Nyx mused quietly from her place in my mind. Since arriving here, all we’ve done is fret and bicker, and we haven’t paused to take in what a wonderful place this once was.

My lips curved down as my eyes narrowed. “Wonderful, save for the mind witch who allowed herself to be led astray.”

My sister sighed. Yes… Poor Lethia.

I snorted. Of everyone, the young enchantress probably had the least of my sympathy.

I crossed the short distance from the tower to the barn and entered to find Lethia standing at one of the stalls, gazing down. She turned when she heard me approaching. Her eyebrows lifted.

“Kali?” she asked.

I blinked at her, stopping short. “Yes. How did you know?”

Lethia tapped her temple, a slow grin forming on her peach lips. “I can usually sense the top layers of people’s thoughts. It’s like a mental signature. Yours is distinct from Nyx’s.” She shrugged. “I’m not actually familiar with your patterns, but when I sensed it was so different, it was easy to guess who you were.”

I nodded. Despite my reservations, I had a grudging respect for Lethia. She was smart and to the point. But she was still naive, and her ambitions were dangerous. I couldn’t stay blind to that.

Nyx may have been quick to forgive the girl for the crimes she was party to, but I was not. Even being unaware of Izma’s exact intentions, the girl knew the demon was a threat. My sister had suffered much because of their brief collaboration, and I shared in that pain. Every aching part of it. 

Until I saw Lethia do more to repay her debts, I would keep my dealings with her short and my eye wary.

“Oh…” Lethia frowned in the wake of my brooding silence. “You dislike me.”

Every muscle in my body clenched. I hissed at her. “Don’t read my thoughts!”

The girl flinched and held up her hand. “Sorry! Sorry. Even without hearing your thoughts explicitly, you bleed more of your emotion than Nyx does.” She blushed and shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s, um… not unlike my readings from Argos.”

My lip curled. “Did you just equate me to your stupid dog?”

Lethia placed her fist on her hip as her gaze took on a sharp glint. “Do not insult Argos!”

I crossed my arms and shifted my weight to one foot. “Then stop drawing ridiculous parallels! I’m nothing like him!”

“Both of you shut the hell up… I’m trying to sleep!” Quincy groaned from the stall.

We glared at each other for a moment before I approached and stopped at Lethia’s side. Looking into the stall, I saw Quincy lying on her side on a bed of hay, her arms covering her head. 

She was in a state of undress. She’d pulled off her boots, but she’d only managed to remove one of her socks, the other only half-pulled off her foot. Her tunic lay discarded on the ground behind me. Quincy’s blouse was sloppily untucked, the front strings loosened to reveal she’d done away with her chest brassiere as well. 

The worst of it was the bucket she’d failed to vomit into completely. Its rancid stench, mingled with Quincy’s desperate sweat, burned my nose and made my stomach turn.

“You fucking moron,” I said. “I told you drinking was a bad idea!”

“Oh, fuck off, Kali,” Quincy groaned. “Leave me alone…”

“You’re a stupid bitch, and I’m not leaving you alone,” I snarled back.

Do you have to curse? Nyx whined.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll curse if I fucking want to, Nyx.”

Actually, I quite enjoyed it. It made it easier to voice my contempt.

It’s a lazy way to voice it

“Piss off. I said I’ll do what I want!”

When I looked at Lethia and Quincy, the pair were giving me weird looks. My cheeks grew hot and I snapped, “I’m obviously talking to my sister! Don’t judge me!”

“Nyx is looking like a beacon of normalcy compared to you, Kali,” Quincy chuckled weakly. She stopped almost immediately, giving me a blip of satisfaction as the wizard clutched her head. “Ugh…”

“Don’t tease,” Lethia chided softly. “Kali needs time to get used to being in control.”

“I don’t need your pity, Lethia,” I growled.

Lethia turned a cool eye on me. “When you have my pity, I’ll let you know. For now, all you have is my disdain. May we refocus, please?”

My eyes turned to slits. 

Then a smirk slowly unfurled across my lips.

Yes. I disliked Lethia Artaud… but she had my respect.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.2

Chapter 47.3

Author’s Note: In case you’re wondering, the navigation buttons will always be done ahead of time. This basically means that if you see the latest chapter linked to a non-existing post, it’s because I’m trying to save myself the effort of logging back on. You are, in fact, not going crazy.



Quincy groggily lifted her head. “Do you two have to loom over me?” she muttered, before letting her head fall back.

I kicked her foot. “Get up! We have to come up with a plan to deal with Jack.” I looked at Lethia. “She’s told you, hasn’t she?”

Lethia bobbed her head with a little shrug. “After some wheedling, yes.”

“There is no plan when it comes to Jack,” Quincy intoned. She stared forlornly into space. “The only power we possessed that could have possibly resisted him was Tonatiuh, and he was destroyed in the spirit realm.”

Lethia leaned on the stall post. “You’re forgetting something.”

Quincy snorted and curled up into a fetal position. “What’s that?” she asked sarcastically.

Lethia pointed at me. “Kali and Nyx are champions of Lacertli.” The girl blinked at me. “At least I assume you both are? Technically he chose Nyx, but I suppose since you both occupy the same body…?” she winced as she trailed off.

I gave her a sour look. “Of course I have all the same powers as my sister!”

Lethia smiled and waved a hand as if to say, There you have it!

“Just because I’m a champion, doesn’t mean I have what it takes to go up against a Legend.” I argued. “Jack has far more experience than I do! It’s why he’s a Legend with a capital L!”

“Exactly,” Quincy said flatly.

I hissed at her, my cheeks burning. “You needn’t agree so quickly!”

“Do we have to fight him, though?” Lethia asked. Her head tilted to the side and her green eyes turned up. “We’d only need to if, for some reason, he found our dealings punishable in some way. But haven’t we done enough to earn a fair hearing, at least?”

My eyes turned down as I considered this. The girl had a point.

Quincy muttered, “First of all, it’s not like we’re going to be given a Higashan court hearing—”

Higashi is the only country with a judicial system that assumes the accused is innocent until proven guilty, Nyx chirped eagerly.

“Second of all,” Quincy continued, “Jack is the champion of Njord, god of wind. Njord’s domain includes a father’s wrath.”

Quincy paused to let loose an unrefined burp before resuming weakly, “Elmiryn has done enough to earn such wrath. And when Jack finds out about me being involved with you all…” Her expression took on a look of disquiet.

Lethia’s eyebrow tilted up. “Njord’s demesne also includes change—”

Demesne. For mortals, it refers to property, usually of an estate, but for gods, it refers to—

My face twisted in irritation. I don’t need play-by-play for everything! Our knowledge is shared, remember?!

I could feel Nyx wilt. I was just trying to help… 

I tuned back just in time to hear Lethia say, “—Our collective efforts have cleared obstacles that kept many parts of the Sibesona stagnant. Those places are starting to flourish. Shouldn’t that count for something?”

I waved my hands, impatiently. “This is stupid conjecture!” I reached down and grabbed Quincy’s foot, pulling her off the hay bed roughly.

“Hey!” Quincy shouted as I dragged her into the middle of the barn. Her azure eyes became large circles as she dug her hands into the dirt and tried to sit up. Her fingers left deep gouges in the ground and her unkempt hair shed hay with her struggles. “Let go!”

“Get up!” I snarled back. She kicked at my hands and I finally released her. “Until Jack gets here, we must assume he’ll be aggressive!” I pressed hotly. “If he is, we need a plan!

“Fuck you!” Quincy spat, crawling pathetically back to the stall. She moaned and collapsed back onto the hay bed. “Stupid crazy cat…”

I spat a hiss from the back of my throat, my hands curling like claws before I stalked forward—.

Lethia blocked me with her body, her head shaking quickly.

“She needs time,” she whispered. Then she grimaced. “And she needs to finish sobering up.”

My lip curled. I paced in front of her a few times before I growled and stomped back to the barn entrance. The girl followed me. 

Once outside, I turned and asked, “Did you at least take away the gods-damned bottle?”

Lethia nodded. “I did. I poured what was left of it far out into the field.” She glanced over her shoulder before asking me seriously, “Is there any more?”

I sighed. “Yes. Two. Some wine and absinthe.”

Lethia’s look darkened. “Kali, we must get rid of it. All of it.”

I gave her an annoyed look. “Obviously!” I sighed roughly and crossed my arms. “I would have done so last night, but… I was tired.”

That wasn’t actually the reason. I could feel Nyx squirm with discomfort.

Lethia waved a hand behind her. “I’ll work with her.”

I nodded. “Do that. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go relieve the boy. Paulo needs rest.”

We started to part… But then I saw Hakeem running out of the tower. My eyes narrowed. What now?

He ran up to us with a deathly serious expression. “Is Quincy well enough to stand?” He asked in a rush.

My stomach clenched.

Oh no… Nyx murmured.

“What is it?” I asked.

Hakeem pointed back toward the tower. “It’s Elmiryn… Paulo told me she’s having a heart attack!”

Continue ReadingChapter 47.3

Chapter 47.4



Of course…


Of course this would happen while Daedalus was gone and Quincy was completely hungover! What was wrong with these people?! How in the world did they even survive this long?


I turned on the ball of my foot and charged into the barn. “Quincy, Elmiryn needs you!” I yelled.


At her stall, Quincy looked up with evident surprise and dread. “What? Now?


“Yes!” I snapped.


“Can’t someone else—?” Lethia started, suddenly pale and big-eyed.


“Do you know revival methods, or how much tincture to give?” I hissed at her.




“Well, neither does anyone else, so at the least, this cajeck needs to be there!”


Without waiting to hear Quincy’s reaction, I stood over her body, grabbed her under the armpits, lifted her up, and hefted her over my shoulder. The wizard yelped, but I didn’t pause. If this fucking warrior died on account of someone else being too drunk to help her…


Let’s just say Quincy’s body would have multiple resting places.


“Kali, I can walk!” Quincy shouted, pushing against the small of my back.


“Don’t care. You’re slow!” I grunted back.


I cleared the barn doors and charged for the tower, Hakeem and Lethia following close. 


“It’s a heart attack, wizard. What do we need?!” I asked between puffing breaths.


Quincy gasped in pain. No doubt all this jostling was torture for her head. “Um, um— There’s a small case in the kitchen, to the left of the entryway on a shelf! There should be a vial of digitalis tincture that we can use


“Lethia!” I shouted as we came through the tower entrance.


“I’ve got it!” The girl exclaimed breathlessly as she veered a hard right into the kitchen.


“What about me?” Hakeem asked.


“Bring two buckets, one filled with water, the other empty. Also, whatever cloth you can find!” Quincy hollered as I carted her down the cellar steps. Her voice echoed on the narrow walls. “Leave it at the top of the stairs!”


“He can’t be involved, Quincy,” I growled.


“I know. We don’t need any of that,” she muttered. “I’m just trying to keep him busy.”


When we arrived at the bottom, it was to find Paulo kneeling at the edge of the containment circle.


“It’s all right, lia. Just hang on!” He said urgently to Elmiryn.


Lethia arrived a short moment after us. “Here is the vial,” she huffed, holding the small bottle up.


I set Quincy on her feet and the wizard reeled a little with a grimace as she tried to keep her balance. Lethia handed her the vial.


Paulo turned to us, and the weariness of a long night was evident on his glistening face. “She says her arms hurt and her chest feels tight! She’s having trouble breathing!”


I pointed at Elmiryn. “Help her, Quincy. Now!”


The wizard shook her head vehemently. “Are you mad?! I can’t go in there! She can smell the sake on my breath! Just my being here is problematic!”


“Your weakness was problematic,” I snapped. “This hesitance is dangerous!


“Kali, she’s right,” Lethia said quickly. She gestured at Quincy. “She reeks of indulgence. Better that she guides from a distance. In fact…” She looked earnestly at Quincy. “May I borrow your knowledge?”


Quincy’s eyebrows lifted. “You can extract it safely?”


Lethia scowled. “I’ve had more training, you know!”


While they talked, I stepped closer to the containment circle, looking over Paulo to where Elmiryn lay, just near her sloppily reassembled hay bed. Her eyes were squeezed shut as she clutched at the front of her sweat-drenched shirt, her breaths coming in quiet but unnervingly quick takes. Her hair was a messy halo about her head.


“Are you sure?” Quincy asked Paulo next. “Did she seem lucid to you when she told you how she felt?”


“Lucid enough!” he snapped. “Just look at her!”


“I need to know for certain!” Quincy snarled. “Lethia will be at risk the moment she steps inside. She’s still healing herself!”


She had a point. Was this a ruse?


Quincy looked sharply at Lethia. “Can you read Elle’s mind?”


Lethia shook her head once. “No. Since the last time, her mind has become an impenetrable maelstrom!”


My nose flared, trying to sift through the sweaty, musty, vomit tainted air. Humans had a certain smell to them when they were in severe distress or suffering from illness. Elmiryn was still part human. Could I pick out that fresh scent of body failure, or would her fae nature deceive my nose?


If she smells differently from the last time we saw her, then we know this is true.


My jaw clenched.


But if she doesn’t…

Continue ReadingChapter 47.4

Chapter 47.5



The longer we took, the closer Elmiryn was to possible death. Maddening obstacles kept us from making quick decisions.


Was the warrior lying to us or not?


I inhaled again, slowly. I needed to pick out a distinct shift in Elmiryn’s scent. A true sign of malady. If I didn’t find this, then I knew this was an act. 


I could sense so much… but there was too much interference. Elmiryn’s specific scent was lost in the cloud of our fear-reeking bodies.


We need to get closer, Nyx urged.


I knelt by Paulo and went as close to the containment line as I dared. I tried to take a whiff again—


“I can’t… I can’t breathe!” Elmiryn wheezed. Her legs kicked weakly along the ground… Then stilled.


Her eyes rolled up, showing their sickly yellowness, blotched with angry crimson veins that had burst from her distress.


“Get in there!” Paulo shouted waving frantically at Lethia. “Get in there now!


I pressed my eyes closed and tried to block out the ruckus…


Elmiryn smelled… She smelled…


Nyx’s horror jolted down my limbs like frigid ice.




My eyes flew open and I jumped to my feet, just as Lethia’s foot crossed the containment line.


“Don’t! It’s a lie!” I screamed.


My arms wrapped around the girl, just as Elmiryn shot up, quick like a striking panther. The Fiamman’s hand grabbed Lethia’s ankle, wrenching it so hard the girl lost her balance. She pulled her back, deeper into the containment circle, but I held on, shouting incoherent denials as my boots scraped along the cellar floor.


“Don’t break the line!” Quincy shouted. “The salt, Kali, the salt!


I spared a quick glance at the floor. Fuck. The containment line was made of salt. If we broke it in our struggle…


My eyes lifted up and met Elmiryn’s over Lethia’s shoulder, and I could see the crazed vehemence in Elmiryn’s gaze as she bared her teeth at me like an animal.


I slid further over the floor and barely raised my right foot in time over the boundary. I felt Paulo grab onto my waist.


“Pull!” he shouted in my ear. “Quincy, pull!


A frantic look over my shoulder informed me that Quincy had also grabbed the boy’s waist.


Lethia screamed as Elmiryn’s dirty hands traveled up her leg. The girl tried to kick her away with her other foot, but the Fiamman only used this as an opportunity to catch her other leg. Now the enchantress was horizontal over the floor, caught in a sick game of tug-of-war.


How was the warrior able to keep her grip? Surely the three of us could outmatch her!


Kali, look down!


With effort, I craned my head to the side and did so. My eyes widened.


Elmiryn had used her fae powers to morph the stone to encase around her feet.


My head snapped up again, my lips squeezed into a grim line. If Elmiryn’s powers had progressed to such a point, then we were all in very grave danger.


“Elmiryn, let go! Please!” Lethia squealed.


“Why should I?!” Elmiryn spat. She looked up, her face twisting with her torment. “I see those drinks you’re hiding! I can see the weave of everything from here!”


She pushed back against her makeshift footholds, causing Lethia to whimper as we all slid a harrowing inch along the floor. I spread my stance wider, trying to keep my left foot away from the containment line. 


I could pull harder. I could use my full therian strength and end this… but doing so would seriously injure Lethia. Maybe even break the containment line. 


I couldn’t risk it. 


A thick vein appeared in Elmiryn’s forehead as she screeched, “Quincy reeks of spirit, yet you keep me trapped here like some fucking animal and share nothing with me!”


“I was stupid, Elmiryn, I’m sorry! I was upset!” Quincy wheezed.


I pulled, my arms linked tightly just under Lethia’s armpits, and the others pulled with me. We didn’t budge.


“I succumbed to my fear!” Quincy went on. “My fear of losing you! My fear of seeing my father! My fear that what you warned me of is true!”


“Nyx bought the drinks on our outing, not knowing what you were trying to do!” I gasped next. It wasn’t that I was getting tired, but Paulo’s hold on me was so intense it was making it harder to breathe.


“We should have thrown it all away!” I said. “But…” 


I clenched my teeth, wrestling with my own pride to say the rest. 


“But Nyx and I both felt the same temptation Quincy did! We wanted to numb our feelings! Her for her pain! Me for my nervousness of this new world!” Every word came haltingly through tight lips.


I wanted to seem capable. I wanted to seem confident. I hadn’t even had an entire day out in this sapien form, and already I was admitting my weakness. I could feel my gorge rise.


There was still more to say.


My eyes closed. I wasn’t good at this sort of thing. Fortunately, I could feel my sister guiding me gently. I suppose I needed the play-by-play after all. 


“There was a bottle of absinthe that was meant just for us,” I said. “It was… selfish and wrong. We should have known we couldn’t support you fully if we gave a pass for ourselves!”


Shut up! I’ve had it!” Elmiryn barked. Her voice sounded off. Thick.


I opened my eyes and was shocked to see the warrior’s face had crumpled, tears streaming down her face. She looked at me, a pitiful creature swept up in sickness, rage, and dogged addiction.


“You fucking idiots, it’s all just noise!” She screamed next. “Every single word! I don’t care about what you have to say! It means nothing to me! Understand?! FUCKING NOTHING!


She pulled on Lethia again, this time sliding her right leg back. I could hear the stone crackle as it morphed to follow her movement. We slid three more inches. 


The inside edge of my left foot dangerously nudged the salt. 


At this rate it was clear that we couldn’t win through brute strength. We had to try something different. Drastic, even.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.5

Chapter 47.6


An idea leaped into my head, but Nyx recoiled from it.

Kali, wait—!

“Was what Nyx said yesterday nothing too??” I asked through clenched teeth. “Hmm? Did my sister’s pain make a dent in your greedy mania, or are you that far gone, Elmiryn?”

Elmiryn’s eyes fluttered. “What Nyx… What Nyx said yesterday?” Her expression gradually smoothed to blank confusion. “What did— What did she say?”


“What Izma took away. What she did. You honestly don’t remember?” I pressed.

Elmiryn’s brow creased slightly as her eyes started to tick rapidly side to side. “Izma… hurt Nyx?”

Her grip on Lethia weakened. 

I let out a sharp kai, signaling my intent to the others, then together, the three of us pulled in unison. The enchantress was wrenched out of Elmiryn’s slack hands with ease.

We crashed in a heap on the floor, each of us panting. I sat up quickly and was glad to see that—though the salt had been harrowingly moved, the line of the circle was still complete. The containment spell held.

Elmiryn hadn’t moved, her hands still up like she still had Lethia’s legs. “What did Izma do…?” she mumbled. “What did she—”

Slowly…very slowly. Her eyes grew large. Her features slackened.

“No…” Elmiryn whispered. More tears slipped from her shocked sickly eyes. “No… no! She stole my face! She stole my face and—”

The stone retreated from Elmiryn’s feet, melting back to the floor as though it were water rolling off of glass. The woman gripped her head and fell to her knees.

I stood up carefully and went back to the line, my boots nearly touching the salt. I stared down at Elmiryn as she pressed her forehead to the floor and wept silently. She punched the floor hard once. Twice. 

Within, I could feel Nyx’s fury with me. She paced inside, sending aching waves along my skull. I sighed. I’d have to hash it out with her. For now, however…

Without turning around, I said, “Paulo, go get some rest. Quincy, check to make sure Lethia’s wounded arm is all right.”

I sat cross-legged next to the circle, my eyes turned away from Elmiryn’s sorrow to the floor. “I’m taking the next watch.”


Quincy didn’t want to linger. The shame and queasiness demanded a hasty retreat. 

She and Paulo helped Lethia up the stairs where they found Hakeem waiting with a bucket of water and two scraps of cloth.

He looked at her eagerly. “Should I take this down, or–?”

“No,” Quincy said quickly. “No, just… leave those. Kali will fetch them later.”

Paulo gestured for the man to take his place supporting Lethia on one side. “Can you help Quincy? I’ve got to sleep.” He sounded weary beyond words. Heavy dark bags hung under his eyes.

Hakeem nodded, and when Paulo slipped out from under one of Lethia’s arms, he slid in quickly and held the girl by the waist.

“I trust you’ll tell me what happened?” Hakeem said to Quincy as Paulo lurched out the front door to find his usual sleeping spot.

She nodded mutely.

Quincy pulled Lethia and Hakeem toward the kitchen. There they sat Lethia down in one of the chairs.

The young girl was sickly pale and trembling, tendrils of her long wavy hair sticking to the sides of her sweaty face. Her eyes stared glassily forward.

“Lethia,” Quincy said as she pulled the pine box of bandages and salves they’d been using for the enchantress off a shelf. “Lethia, say something.”

“Something,” the girl mumbled.

“Good girl,” Quincy said, trying to feign strength. Trying to feign control.

But they didn’t really have a damn thing under control, did they? Not Elmiryn. Not themselves. And certainly not the dangers that sought them out.

Hakeem watched at the end of the table with arms crossed as Quincy sat next to Lethia on the right and placed the box down.

She gently took hold of Lethia’s amputated arm. “I just want to check your stitches.”

“Of course,” Lethia said quietly. She still didn’t look at Quincy. “Don’t want any setbacks on the road to recovery, do we?”

Quincy frowned at Lethia’s numb response. Being in shock was understandable, but the more Lethia spoke, the less the woman believed this was the case. There was something lurking in the girl’s words. Some muted emotion she couldn’t name.

Carefully, Quincy undid the bandages over Lethia’s stump. They’d been changing it regularly with a steady application of fresh salves, and so far the wound had been healing just fine. Daedalus had been confident that the stitches could be removed in just a few more weeks barring any setbacks.

Too bad they’d just had one.

Still, if the stitches held, then all Quincy would have to do was reapply the elf’s salve (comprised of secret ingredients he refused to divulge) and redress the wound. Otherwise, they’d need to have another painful round with the needle and thread again.

As the last of the bandage wrap came off, the pungent stench of the healing salve filled the room. Quincy’s nose wrinkled a little, but she leaned in and used the sunlight from the small kitchen window to inspect the integrity of the stitches.

She smiled. “Thank the gods. Everything appears all right.”

Continue ReadingChapter 47.6

Chapter 47.7


Obviously. She grabbed my legs, not my arm,” Lethia grumbled. “Why did we even wonder?”

Quincy paused in her opening of the salve jar to lean back in her seat and eye the girl warningly.

“Better to check and be certain,” Hakeem said with a soft frown.

He placed a hand on Quincy’s shoulder. The woman resisted the urge to shrug it off.

“Forgive me,” Lethia murmured. Her lips barely moved. “I’m upset.”

“As we all are,” Quincy said, keeping her stern eye steady. “But you have something on your mind, girl. Just say it and be done with it.”

Lethia took a deep intake of breath. Then she turned and said with steel in her voice, “I’m upset that I had to step in for you.”

Quincy stilled, letting that sink in. Eventually, she said, “Understandable.”

Lethia tilted her head. “You must have been aware that you being drunk left us open to this.”

“Lethia…” Hakeem rumbled, but Quincy held up a quieting hand.

“I understand why you did it,” Lethia continued. “You were scared of what was coming. But I’m…”

Quincy exhaled harshly through flaring nostrils, trying to resist the natural urge to defend herself. “You’re angry,” she murmured through tense lips. “Go on. Say it. I won’t deny that I failed.” 

Lethia’s left hand clenched in her lap. Her green eyes augured into Quincy’s. “I am angry. Since the incident with Paulo, I’ve fought against my frustrations with everyone because I was the one who helped the demon’s pet. I had no right to judge.”

Her lower lip pushed up hard in self-disgust, wrinkling her chin as her eyes misted. “I had to bear the brunt of everyone’s anger and suspicion, and in no way did I have room to say how I really felt about anything.”

“Do you want us to feel sorry for you?” Quincy asked with a squint.

Lethia laughed caustically and shook her head. “Of course not.” She leaned in, her eyes widening. “But I can see the anger in you too, Quincy. You know that you’ve messed up, so you’re refraining from saying what you really feel. I’m saying I know what that’s like.”

“And what do I really feel, Lethia Artaud?” Quincy snapped, feeling the thorns of her frustration tearing from her skin. “You’re so fucking smart and saavy? Then tell me, what’s on my mind?”

Lethia snorted and sat back in her chair. She averted her eyes to the window. “We both know you and Hakeem have excellent thought protection.”

Her eyebrow arched. “But I don’t need enchantment to see that you’re sick of playing den mother. Pretending we’re almost like a family. Now your true family is coming, and the charade feels unbearable. You couldn’t carry on for even one more day.”

The girl looked at Quincy sidelong and hissed through her teeth. “If you’re tired of that, then I’m tired of being the last fucking resort.”

Now Quincy’s face twisted in confusion. “What do you mean?” She paused to look back at Hakeem, who only shrugged.

Lethia sighed roughly, her eyes turning up to the ceiling.

“Everyone holds on to something that hurts them. Nyx’s trauma. Elmiryn’s drinking. Paulo’s guilt,” she cut a penetrating look at Quincy. “Your fear.”

The girl shook her head. “For the last few weeks I’ve had to take it upon myself to step in when no one else would. Paulo backed out of his promise, so I did what had to be done. Elmiryn nearly kills everyone, and I break through to her. Today, I thought I was the only one who could administer aid to Elmiryn…”

Quincy sighed heavily. “And then you were placed in harm’s way…”

Lethia pressed her lips together, lifted both eyebrows, and turned over her hand. 

The enchantress closed her eyes and her throat moved in a silent swallow. “I see how everyone thinks and acts. I can’t help but apply my teaching and see solutions. I know that can make me a bit insufferable. Maybe meddlesome.”

Hakeem laughed. “Maybe?” 

Lethia cut him a weary look. “I just… I want to help you all.”

Quincy scoffed. She stood and went to the bucket out by the cellar stairs and used the water to wash her hands. She returned to her seat and began to apply the salve on Lethia’s arm.

“Don’t act like you’re so perfect,” Quincy muttered. “Your principles are radical. Your ambition is self-destructive. You’re also annoyingly arrogant.”

“Don’t forget impertinent,” Lethia added with a little smirk, before that was quickly followed by a wince of pain from Quincy’s sudden firm hand.

“That too!” Quincy snapped. 

She picked up the bandages and started to wrap Lethia’s stump. “You have a serious savior complex, Lethia Artaud, and for your information, we are not the side characters in your story! Stop placing the burden of our progress on yourself! It’s ridiculous!”

Lethia considered this quietly. When Quincy finished and began to put away the supplies, the girl held out her hand.

“Wait,” she said.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.7