Picture Share! Princess Rebella!

So, wifey built me a new computer! It has windows 10 and the ensuing krita on it, and I messed around on it. And ohhh, I actually like this picture!

I have to say, the single thing that has helped my art the most (beside my wifey’s critiques) is doing my own makeup studiously. Y’all, that REALLY helps figure out how to paint a face. Blend, blend, blend, contour!

Lately, I’ve been drawing the characters from Lage’s Game, and I gotta say, I really do like this picture of Rebella! Yes, that nasty princess will be quite important in the story I feel… I have some idea of what kind of future she has in the story, but I’m not sure. Things can change so much! But yes, she will be important!

Anyways, I am well, and have spent a lot of time art-ing around 🙂 so enjoy this picture, let me know what you think, and have a great evening/day!

Take care y’all, much love to you all ❤

Lage’s Game: Chapter Nine, Part One

Rebella nearly threw me at her grandmother, she shoved me at her so harshly. I stumbled forward, and the elderly Queen touched my face briefly. I straightened, scowling, and her touch was gone. But she was smiling now.

“An ancient,” she whispered. “Too bad I am leaving as she arrives.”

But she did not sound sorry at all. Rather, she sounded mischeivous. Playful, even. The eye looked at Rebella, then her sister. “You two have your work cut out for you,” she said gleefully.

The two sisters did not seem amused.

“Perhaps if we do a spell of reversal, her death will save your life,” said Rebella swiftly, the way you blurt something out so no one can interrupt you with a ‘no’.

The grandmother hummed as she looked me over once more.

“No,” she said finally.

I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. Al-alright? I guessed I was safe then? Somehow I didn’t feel any safer. At least not with Rebella around.

“We must save you!” Rebella cried out, shoving me aside to step up to her grandmother. “Your life is worth more than hers!”

“Then it would not be a fair spell, would it?” chuckled the grandmother.

“Rebella,” warned the sister, stepping to my other side. I was trapped between them.

Rebella seized my shoulder. “It is her people who did this! She must pay-”

“Why?” I barked, glaring up at Rebella.

She seemed utterly shocked at that. At me speaking up? At me daring to question her? Either way, she was astonished. She almost let me go. I wrenched free with a twist, and almost punched her in the stomach. On a whim, I didn’t. I resisted that rage that was beginning to boil within me.

“’My people’, as you call us, could not have done this,” I snapped, gesturing to the elderly woman. “The gun you showed me couldn’t have done this-”

“It did!” barked Rebella, seizing me again to shake me. Now, I gave in to the anger.

I shrieked, kicking and clawing at her. I aimed for the eyes. With a yell she lunged back, shielding her face with her arms.

I didn’t chase her. Instead I stood my ground, seething and glaring at the astonished princess. “Brat,” she hissed between her teeth.

“It was them who must have done this,” I hissed back at her. “They have killed my parents! They attacked me! They murdered my aunt-,” and those words silenced me. Was Kayla truly gone? Had she – finished her fight? Was she happy?

“Well,” said the grandmother, but then she took a cough, and then another, and then a whole fit of them. She doubled over, the other princess and several attendants rushing to her side to pat her shoulders and fuss. Rebella stood where she was, looking guilty. Our eyes met. She looked away, then fiercely glared back at me as if she’d changed her mind. She would not look away now.

After a hacking spasm, the grandmother breathed again. Leanign back in her throne, she looked Rebella over. “Child,” she said softly. “Take care of this one,” and she nodded at me.

Rebella startled. “Of, course?” she said, pausing as if she was not entirely sure what had been said. Neither was I.

The Grandmother smiled, eyes closing. “Don’t let Lage get his claws into her.”

My stomach vanished. Was Lage somehow to blame for all this? After all, he had appeared with ‘them’.

But Rebella was quickly bowing and murmuring that yes, she would be sure to keep me away from Lage.

“That man is trouble,” sighed the Queen, eyes still closed. Then, she seemed to drift off into sleep, peace and relaxation coming over her good features.

The sister spun to Rebella, hissing under her breath. “Get her out of here! You’ve done enough!”

Rebella lifted her head angrily, but the sister gestured at her to leave. “Take her with you!” Then, shoving me towards Rebella, she added “How dare you bring her here! I will talk with you later!”

“No, you won’t!” snapped Rebella as she yanked me to her by the shoulder. Then, dragging me after her, she whirled and marched away.

We crossed the courtyard of greenery, then entered into the castle through another door than the one we entered into. Once that door was shut behind us, Rebella shoved me towards a guard. “Put her in the dungeon,” she said ruefully as she kept walking on, leaving me behind in the guards’ grasp.

I squirmed, wanting to throw myself after Rebella and give her a beating. But the guard held me fast. Muttering something under his breath to the other guard at the station, he began hauling me down the corridors.

We descended a meager flight of stairs, the walls growing darker and darker as there were fewer and fewer lamps to light the way. The air grew dank and humid and foul with the smell of decaying flesh. Then, at the end of these stairs, the dungeon appeared.

It was a small landing where a guard sat with his feet propped up on a desk. “Another one?” he asked, rising sloppily to his feet.

“This one’s special,” said the guard, shoving me forward. “She’s not from here, if ye ken what I mean.”

“Oh,” said the dungeon guard, sounding astonished behidn his helmet. I made a point of glaring at him.

“The princess brought them in,” said the first guard. “So put her alone, away from the others. The usual for their type of scoundrel.”

The dungeon guard nodded, taking me by the shoulder and hauling me off into the darkness beyond the light of the last lamp. There he seemed to know his way, walking straight on. As we walked my eyes grew adjusted tot he dark and I saw large cells on either side, full of ragged figures who clustered together. There were squeaks of what I supposed was rats.

We walked on and on, and I wondered why there were so many prisoners. There were dozens of them, of not a hundred in total.

Past those large cells were smaller ones. These seemed emtpy, put the darkness was growing so thick that it was difficult to tell.

I was shoved into one that was not the last, but before the last. “There!” the guard barked, locking the door behind me. “You stay there!”

I stumbled, caught myself, and turned around.

The cell was tiny, just long enough for an adult to lay down in either direction. There was spongey grime in one corner and scrapes of straw that were scattered across the rest. Tired and altogether frustrated and mad, I sat down in the corner against the stone wall and the bars to the other cell, as far away from the spongey stuff as possible. There, I wrapped my arms around my knees and hugged them to my chest.

Finally, I caught my breath. Finally, I had time to think. The world, having moved so fast, was now slamming to a stand-still. I let out a loud breath, just to hear myself.

The dungeon, for the amount of people it housed, was eerily silent. The footsteps of the guard faded away, and then there was utter silence.

My mind whirled. I was in some world. In a dungeon. I was being blamed for a Queen’s death- which was certainly not the result of a gunshot wound. These people were completely lost and out of their league against ‘them’, it would seem. They were –

I shrieked as something slipped through the bars and touched my shoulder. It was soft yet smooth and solid – rather like a hand.

I scrambled back, crawling backwards across the floor. Beyond, on the other side of the bars, I could just make out a set of tilted golden eyes that seemed to glow ever so slightly.

“Shee, sheee,” a voice whispered as the hand waved through the bars at me.

“Silence!” the guard roared, banging something against the bars far away. I knew it was a threat, and I’d better shut up.

I gulped down my fear, staring at the strange shape that was too close to me. I could only make out the eyes, and the ghastly shape of the hand.

“Shee, shee,” it shushed, or was that some word? It was a male voice, low and hoarse. It murmured some gibberish then, the hand reaching still for me.

A madman, I thought. Or a pedophile. Or – some creature?

“Little one,” the voice whispered.

I startled. A human then? Then again, could monsters speak english?

“Here, tsk tsk tsk,” the hand snapped its fingers.

“I said quiet!” bellowed the guard, banging again on the bars.

The hand grew limp and drew away through the bars. But the voice continued. “Little one, here, come.”

I crawled back some more, squishing my hands into the filth. The stench was terrible so I recoiled – but that drew me closer to the creature.

Huddling between the filth and the monster, I clutched my knees to my chest again.

Silence settled. I felt myself calm somewhat. The creature could not reach me –

“Little one,” it whispered. “Would you like to get out?”

Lage’s Game: Chapter Eight, Part Two

The walk felt endless. I wished more than once that I’d taken Lage up on his offer of his cloak. But regrets were pointless and I trudged on, refusing to be dragged by the guards. I would stand on my own two feet.

After what felt like an hour of walking, we emerged from the forest into a clearing. There, towering up out of seemingly nowhere, a gated city with a tall castle stood.

It was like something straight out of a fairytale. The walls were of white stone, two stories tall, with ramparts. There was a thick trench dug before them, filled with spears and what looked like a small frozen bed of water. There was the drawbridge that was lifted up. But before this drawbridge, on our side of the moat, was a solitary guard and several waiting horses.

“Take her on your horse,” Rebella ordered one of the guards before mounting her lovely dappled gray horse. I wanted to touch the horses, to take in all their colors – for I had never seen one up in real life before. But now was not the moment to be in awe. I was hoisted up to sit before a guard, and Rebella whirled her horse towards the drawbridge.

“Lower the drawbridge!” she called out. “The princess orders it!”

Clankings answered, and the drawbridge lowered swiftly. Rebella ordered her horse forward with a click of the tongue, and we followed her as a cluster of guards.

We passed beneath the thick of the wall, and we entered the city.

I was struck by the sight first. There was myriads of houses toppled together, stacked upon each other, and clustered in shapings that seemed to suit people of all sizes. There was some that bore tiny gnome-like doorways that were round. There were some that seemed just a little too tall, and lopsided at that too. There were others that seemed svelte and elven.

Yet the people before us couldn’t have looked more bland. They were dirty, browned with sun and exhaustion. They were monochrome in their blandness, their clothing all turned to the same shade of brown and dirt as they were. Their clothes were tattered and thin. They hastily rushed out of the way of the princess’s horse. It was that or be crushed, I guessed, for Rebella stared straight through them and seemed to pay no heed to anyone. Her horse marched on, and the people scattered like ants. The guards had their hands on the pommels of their swords, and glared angrily all around.

Whispers rose, fingers pointed, but they were far away. No one dared come near to point at me.

As we proceeded through the city, the stench let itself be known. The air was in turn crisp and cool of winter, then it was the moist warm stench of fecal remains. Then it was mold, then crisp again with another gust.

This place stinks, I realized grudgingly.

And yet, the castle that towered before us did not look like it ought to belong in a place of stink. It was tall and spired, it was magnificent. It had handfuls of turrets, towers, and pointy-topped roofs straight out of a novel. It was made of the same white stone as the walls were, and it looked surreal. I wondered if the stink would get better as we approached.

After a good hour of riding through the thick of filthy people, we were met with another wall, another gate which Rebella ordered opened – and which swung open inwards for her. Again, she rode onwards as if the world owed her something.

It was in here that the stink finally let up. Here there were snowy gardens, fluffy bushes that were topped with red winter berries. Fruit trees that were bare save for ice and snow. Here, the poor were obviously not welcome.

We rode onwards, our breath misting icily before our faces. Colorfully dressed people were seen walking about here and there. They curtsied as Rebella passed, and turned their faces away from the guards – and turned quickly back to gawk at me. They rode on horses as well, trimmed in fur cloaks and richly decorated clothes.

Finally, we had crossed the gardens. The castle stood before us like a multi layered cake, the immensity of it mind boggling. It was tall as a skyscraper, taller than I believed any medieval palace had ever been. Here, at its outer edges, it was already three flights high, and it only grew taller and more multilayered towards the middle.

Rebella dismounted, landing gracefully like a cat. People rushed forward from an open doorway, and they were not dressed in furs. They were simply clothed, and seemed to be servants. Rebella tossed her horses’ reins at them in disdain, and turned to face me.

“Bring the girl,” she ordered the guard behind me. “Hurry up!”

The guards clustered around this horse, several of them holding me while the guard behind me dismounted. Then, by several hands, I was passed down and placed on the ground like a very precious lump. Or a lump they believed might run away. But that was stupid. Where was I to run to?

With one scowl from Rebella, she turned and marched into a large doorway before us. The guards hastily followed, three of them clustering around me to hold my shoulders and half-carry me forward.

Inside, the corridor was dark, lit by the occasional lamp. The lamps were gorgeous! They had an oriental flair to them I supposed, looking all blown glass with leaves and elaborate people painted onto them and the wood pieces holding them carved as well with swirls and motifs.

Rebella paid this no heed. She marched straight on, her cloak billowing about her. I stared from one lapm to another until I saw spots. Then, as I was blinking spots out of my eyes, we reached a doorway.

Rebella shoved it open with a bang, and we were flooded with light.

We were let out into a courtyard, and I had to blink and blink to be sure it was real. Of course it couldn’t be – nothing int his world seemed to be – but it was.

It was green. There was grass, fruits trees, and so many bushes of fruits and vegetables in clusters here and there in spiralling pathways. It stretched on in all directions for a good hundreds of feet, like a small field. Up, above, a domed ceiling lined with metal spires held up twinkling glass that made this all possible.

Rebella was drawing off her cloak. She tossed it to a servant who rushed to her side to catch it before the white fur touched the ground. Turning, Rebella seized me by the shoulder and began to march forward, straight into the heart of the inner gardens.

There, a cluster of people were attending to a large chair. On this chair, lumped up in silks and fabrics, was a wizened elderly woman.

She bore some traits of resemblance with Rebella, but there was a softness to her that Rebella did not have. Also, she was half dead. Literally.

Decay clung to one side of the woman’s face, revealing bone and teeth beneath. The eye on that side was white and half lidded.

There was a strange, putrid, decaying scent as we marched through the garden towards her. SERvants stepped aside from the cluster, and Rebella thrust me forward to the elderly woman as we reached her.

“I’ve brought a card collector!” Rebella announced loudly, but not triumphantly. It was merely a fact.

A woman, middle aged and robed in vibrant red, stepped forward from the side of the throne. “Why would you disturb mother with that?” She had gold earrings, gold paint around her eyes, and hair that was intricately shaped in coils atop her head.

“Maybe she can tell us how to cure mother,” said Rebella coldly, not looking at her sister. Instead she was looking somewhere aroudn their grandmothers’ knees. I could not see what there was to look at there.

“You’re disturbing her,” snapped the sister, but she silenced as the Queen, I supposed she was Queen, lifted a hand. This hand was good, not rotten. It had long nails that were immaculately cared for, and several gold bangles around the wrist.

“Come here,” said the old woman, her one good eye trained one me.

A New World~ Lage’s Game: Chapter Eight Part One

By ‘home’, Lage had meant a hut, really. It was just a bulge of twigs and leaves among the snow and trees. I suppose he was trying to be nice, taking me to his home. There, he had said in the brisk walk over, he would make me a good hearty stew.

There was to be no stew.

Before the hut stood several figures. They were conspicuously not made of stone though they stood as still as it. They were alive, and that was to be trouble.

There was one woman, tall with onyx skin like pearls, bearing a white fur cloak and hood that draped to the ground. Beneath, I caught glimpses of a green dress and metal accents. She bore a staff that was sculpted and carved intricately. The way she held her head and stood gave off a sense of royalty.

To her left and right were guards in medieval tunics and cloaks, complete with shields and swords drawn.

Lage muttered something unintelligible under his breath as we stepped from the trees into the small clearing before the hut. Reaching out an arm, he drew me slightly behind himself.

“Lage,” said the woman with the white cloak. Her words were icy.

“Rebella,” said Lage cautiously, tilting his head downwards not so much respectfully as carefully. “What can I do for you?”

Rebella did not answer, her eyes flickering to me then back to Lage.

“There has been some trouble,” said Lage slowly.

Rebella’s lip curled. “As usual. The bonds ought to have been severed centuries ago.” With a nod to her guards she said “Kill the girl.”

“No!” exclaimed Lage, drawing his sword and punting me behind him with a swipe of the leg. I fell over, tumbling into the snow.

“You don’t want to do that!” Lage was saying as I scrambled back up to my feet behind him.

“Oh? I’m certain I do,”said Rebella with a sneer.

“I will tell the Queen, and you – you will suffer the consequences!” Lage barked.

Rebella sneered again, but seemed to reconsider. “Card collectors cause nothing but trouble,” she said to me “And they have no rights here.”

“Unless they are invited by a card bearer,” said Lage. “I invited her! She is a guest between worlds. You cannot deny that! Would you cause a war between worlds for your vanity?”

Rebella moved to the right, so gracefully I was entranced. Her eyes were fixed upon me in utter disdain. “There has been trouble that you know not of,” she said icily. “I think we ought to kill her.”

“Whatever trouble, I doubt it’s her fault! Don’t murder a child!”

There seemed to be a light behind Rebella’s eyes. “Her soul is hardly young.” But she gestured to her soldiers, who had drawn their swords. “Put your swords away.” To Lage she said “The Queen is ill.”

“The crown will not pass to you,” said Lage slowly, wary as he lifted his hand from his sword.

Rebella sneered. “I would not be here if I’d done the poisoning. No, rather,” she reached under her cloak and drew a pouch out from her belt. It was of soft brown leather, but held something clunky and pointed within. She waved it before herself. “Guess.”

Lage made a sort of shrug. “The Tael poisoned an arrow?”

Rebella laughed. “I would not want a card collector dead if so.” Ruefully, she drew the pouch open and drew out a black handgun. Lage gasped. A shudder went down my spine. ‘They’ were here. It had to be. Were they everywhere?

The gun was tossed to the ground between us. Lage jumped back and I flinched. “Be careful with that!” Lage muttered.

“The worlds have been crossed,” Rebella said angrily, glaring at Lage. “Murder has been attempted – on our Queen no less. War must be declared. A line is to be drawn between us, and them. Make your choice, Lage.”

I looked to Lage, then Rebella.

Lage heaved a breath that misted out between us. “They are after the child as well. They murdered her family. She,” he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Is one of us.”

“’Us’?” Rebella asked pointedly. “You think she can join? That I would permit that?”

Lage hesitated. “Her soul is old, like you said,” he started.

Rebella lifted her eyebrows in an angry question.

Lage looked down at me. More hesitation.

“Say it!” barked Rebella.

“She has an ancient soul, is all I’m saying,” said Lage in an obvious fib. A smile played on his face. “What more can I tell you? I think she would be an asset. To you. To this kingdom.”

Rebella’s gaze narrowed. “Who is she? The Fool? The Emperor? Tell me, and I might let her live.”

Lage rolled his eyes. “Not all old souls are known to you. Besides, I-” he hesitated again. Then, shaking his head, he continued. “She is but a child now.”

“I don’t care!” yelled Rebella. “If I want her dead she will be dead!”

Anger surged in me. A tingling came over me and I decided that Rebella, for all her grace and beauty, was my enemy. For all my admiration, I wanted to murder her.

Rebella’s eyes landed on me. “Do you sense that?” she asked. Lage nodded, looking down at me glumly.

“She is an ancient,” murmured Rebella in awe. Greedy awe. Stooping over, she peered even more at me. I wanted to punch her.

“Maybe an Annunaki,” suggested Lage playfully, and I felt he was gambling with something, or goading her on.

“Shut up!” Rebella snapped. “You wouldn’t know them if one punched you in the throat.”

Lage sighed and squeezed my shoulder. “As a matter of fact, I think I have been punched by one-”

“What part of shut up don’t you understand?” barked Rebella, straightening. With a nod, she ordered her guards. “Take the girl. I’ll keep her.” With a sneer to Lage she said “Mine now.”

Lage lifted his hands to his shoulder in a ‘not my problem’ gesture. Then, eyes widening, he stooped over me and, cupping a hand to hide his mouth, whispered in my ear “Don’t tell her you ate my card!”

The next instant, the guards were dragging me away from him. “What did you tell her?” Rebella was shouting, marching up to Lage.

Lage held up his hands to his shoulders. “Not to make you angry. That’s all.”

“You wish,” hissed Rebella before whirling around and marching away into the trees. The guards followed, hauling me along by the arms. I took one look back, and Lage waved miserably at me.

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com

Kayla’s Finale ~ Lage’s Game, Chapter Seven Part Two

Kayla took the bottle and pressed it against the side of her head. The man looked to her, and I watched them both.

“What is Gwenevarnia?” asked Kayla, sounding, as she herself would put it ‘tired of this shit’. “Is it some gang territory?”

Lage leaned across the table, palms pressing into it so hard his hands turned deathly white. “This is not about gangs. This is beyond them. This is about worlds.”

Kayla just shook her head. Lage turned to me. “Do you know what I am talking about?”

I held my silence. He shook his head and turned to Kayla. “Do you know that there are other worlds within the tree of life?”

Kayla’s eyebrows raised. My heart skipped a beat.

“I come from Gwenevarnia,” he repeated. “That is another world. This one is named Argv-”

“Another world?” interrupted Kayla. “Are you mad?”

“I am not!”

“Of course he’s mad. Whey else is he dressed like that?” I asked, daring him to reveal more. Show us what he could do by disbelief.

He looked from Kayla to me and then back. “I swear-”

“Prove it,” snapped Kayla.

“Why else do you think all this is happening?” he demanded, leaning across the table again. Kayla recoiled with a crinkled nose.

“Her father got messed up in gangs. That’s all!” She waved a hand at the man. “You’re messing with us.”

“I-”

“Get out!”

“I swear-”

“Out!” Kayla lifted the vodka bottle as a weapon.

The man scowled, brow creasing. I rose to my feet. “Wait.”

Both adults stared at me. I sat back down now that I had their attention. “How do we make them stop?”

The man hesitated, still in his seat. “I do not know. They usually get whatever they want and,” he paused, looking to Kayla. “That means they usually don’t stop. I’m sorry.”

Kayla cursed under her breath. I looked to the man. “Prove yourself.”

“What?” he asked, eyebrows raising at my command. I glared him down with all my inner power.

“Prove Gwenevarnia exists. Prove that you are not mad. Prove it!”

He leaned towards me. “The card you ate – it has special powers. You will not be well until we have another one crafted. If we can.”

“That proves nothing,” I said staunchly.

He closed his eyes with a sigh. Then, when he opened them – had they always been brown? I startled. Kayla frowned, eyes narrowing.

No one heard the man arriving from the living room until the gunshot blew through Kayla. Blood spattered across Lage and I gasped, terror and ice seizing me. It was like needles in my skin, shooting through me.

One of the goons was in the entryways to the kitchen, gun in hand. Lage was seizing me by the wrist and dragging me to his side. Kayla was laying across the table, gasping as she clutched at her bleeding chest.

I realized that I loved Kayla very much. She had tried her best for me.

Our eyes met. Then she looked to the man. “Take her and go,” she hissed. The man nodded. She seized the bottle of vodka. Spinning, she lunged and threw herself at the goon. He yelled, the gun firing. A large hand covered my eyes, turning my head and crushing me into the green cloak. There was a smash of glass thudding and shattering – and then nothing.

The hands slowly lifted from my eyes. Around me, pine trees stretched. There was the tinkling sound of a stream. A cool breeze wafted over us. There was snow on the earth, just a thin sprinkling of it.

“Kayla,” I said, trembling but not from the cold. Kayla.

“She may yet live,” the man said from behind me. His hands squeezed my shoulders protectively. “But now you are safe. That is the important part.”

I stared ahead, unmoving. Or no – I shook. The cold began to nip at my fingers. A section of the cloak was wrapped around me. “Here,” he said, pressing me against himself. With a fumble, he drew the cloak off himself and began to wrap it around me.

In a fit I threw him off, flailing at the thick fabric. “I don’t want it!” I screamed, spinning to yell it at him.

He seemed shocked, maybe hurt. Then he softened. “Alright,” he said, drawing it back around himself. “But we have some walking ahead of us.”

“I don’t want to!” I hissed. “Take me back!” Once more, anger began crackling over me, rising like heat in my veins. I felt the power, the adrenaline, surging. I was going to destroy something. The hacking with the knife? That would be pithy little once I had my hands on the one who had shot Kayla!

He lifted two hands to placate me. “No. She wanted you here. You are safe.”

I shuddered, a sob tearing through me. I doubled over, feeling sick. The world swam. When it stopped, heavy hands were holding my shoulders.

I looked up. He smiled unsteadily at me. “My name is Lage,” he said gently.

Something clicked in my head. I squinted at him. “I ate your card.” But not ‘his’ in that it belonged to him, ‘his’ in that …

“Yes,” he said, eyes shifting blue once more.

I looked around. Behind him stood a tall stone, a standing stone of sorts. There were inscriptions on it, and I recognized it as the image on the card I had eaten. I stared at it. He turned, placing a hand on the stone while watching me. “This is my menhir,” he said. “Our version of the cards.”

“The cards?” I felt all this information, the implications, swirling within me.

He seemed to pity me. “Let’s walk,” he said. “My home is not so far.”

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Six Part One

Kayla slammed a bottle of vodka down onto the kitchen table. The table was a round thing, wooden and solid. The kitchen was small, but bright and cozy with some dangling plants here and there.

Shaking, Kayla put together a drink for herself. For once she didn’t try and smile at me. She just squeezed out that lemon – then tipped the whole drink back.

Straight aways, making a face, she poured herself another one. Then she sat down, adjacent to me. She put her head in her hands, fingers running through her blonde streaked curls. Then she looked up at me. She was empty, haggard.

“I-” she started, but then was lost for words. She drew the vodka drink to herself.

“They’re here, that’s what it means,” I said flatly, unicorn in my lap. Wretchedly, it still comforted me. It felt like a survivor now, like me.

“Hon,” she said, voice trembling. “The police had that, the fact it’s here,” she took a deep inhale. “They gave it away.”

“To them,” I said stoically.

Kayla nodded, eyes shimmering with tears. “They’re here,” she croaked. “I thought – that if we left the city,” she picked up the vodka drink and tipped some back.

“It’s okay,” I said sternly, knowing that was the right thing to say.

It wasn’t. She burst into tears, sobbing. “It’s not!” she sobbed. She covered her mouth with a hand, tears trickling down her cheeks. Shaking, she drew a large breath. “I’ll get a security system,” she babbled. “I- we’ll figure something out. We can move.”

“Again?” I asked. “They’ll follow us.”

She tossed back her vodka with a gulp. “Nunavut or something,” she mumbled. Then she rose, still trembling. “Let’s go to bed. Sleep always helps. We will feel better tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t want to tell her that they almost always struck by night. I just nodded, stomach tight. I didn’t tell her that I still needed supper. What point was there?

Slowly, lights were switched on for us to walk upstairs to a small bedroom where she drew out blankets from the closet. Then, quite suddenly and haphazardly, Kayla put all the blankets away and announced that I would sleep in the bed next to her. I didn’t argue. I just put my pajamas on in the bathroom and brushed my teeth.

That night, I lay on my back with eyes wide open. The moonlight drifted in through the thin curtains. Kayla shifted and shifted. Finally, an hour later, she fell asleep.

I lay there and listened for the crick of the door. I listened, body tense with every bird chirp and cuckoo from outside. I listened, heart pounding in my throat and mouth turning dry. I checked the glowing clock by the bed, watching the time seemingly freeze – only to tick off a number every so often. It was agonizing. Then, three am struck.

I heard a footstep almost in time with the flickering change on the clock. I froze, every muscle tense. I gripped my hand in my pocket, clenching my keys that I had snuck into bed. I was going for the eyes this time. No hesitation. They wanted to send a message? So would I.

Soft, quiet, thumps were barely audible. The stairs creaked a warning. I hoped Kayla wouldn’t wake. She’d just get hurt and get in the way. No, this was my battle.

The footsteps stopped before the closed bedroom door. For three heartbeats, nothing. Then, the doorknob turned with a click. The door swung open – and squeaked oh so loudly.

Kayla gasped, sitting up in bed. With a grappling scramble, she flicked the light on from her bedside. Light glowed gently out from the lampstand near her side of the bed.

I Had sat up despite myself, and Kayla was gulping for air, looking from me to the opened door. “Stay there,” she whispered before picking up a beer bottle from beside her bed.

Then, as bravely as she could, she walked to the darkness of the corridor. The beer bottle was lifted as she switched on the lights in the hallway.

She yelped, then stepped back. She was frozen stiff, but then she shook herself. “There’s nothing!” she announced. Turning her back on the hallway in a stupid move, she announced to me with wild eyes “There’s nothing!”

Then she looked again into the hallway, as if to make sure.

“What did you see?” I asked, stepping out of the bed. I walked to her side. She glanced from me to the hallway.

“A man. He was wearing green. It- but he just vanished. Must have been a shadow,” she said, looking around once more.

I walked out into the hallway. I wished I could sense leftover energies, like some psychics could. What did that man want? I even walked to the spare room. The door was locked.

“They couldn’t have gone in there so quickly,” said Kayla tensely. “Come back to bed.”

I did. Again, we lay down. Kayla set the beer bottle back on the floor beside her – and there was the sound of tires crunching on the road. It stopped before our house.

“They’re here,” a male voice announced from the hallway.

Kayla leaped up. Bottle in hand, she stood by the bed, shaking all over. A shadow stepped out of the shadows and into our bedroom.

“They’re here,” the man repeated, and I saw an outline of a cloak on his form. “What are you going to do?”

I stepped out of the bed, the floor cold to my bare feet. Ice prickled over my skin. The moment had come. The final showdown – or so I hoped.

“Who are you?” asked Kayla. “What do you want?”

“I’m not with them, if that answers anything,” he said. “But you will need to decide fast.”

“I’m killing them,” I announced breathlessly, keys in hand and ready to scratch and maim.

“I won’t let you do that,” he said somberly. Downstairs, the front door softly clicked open. He whispered now. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to kill them,” I repeated.

Lage’s Game Thoughts and SPOILERS

Well! This story has been getting exciting lately! I have to say, I haven’t been expecting one very important thing that has developed in this story and that is -> the main character (who desperately needs a name!).

Wow, she is one angry and violent kid/teen. When I first began writing, she was basically a blank slate to me. I didn’t think much of her, to be honest. I was kind of ‘eh, a kid’. Now I’m honestly not sure if she’ll become a villain or what. Or maybe she’ll become a villain then redeem herself? That’d be funky!

But hey, she’s something. She definitely feels like a powerhouse of emotion to me, strong emotions, and so angry. Which (to me) makes sense. I mean, her whole world fell apart.

Now, when I was much younger (back in ye olde days, haha), I was very angry. I was borderline violent. So, yeah, I’m basing her a bit off my experiences with anger. But to be clear, I’m basing myself off of my own anger in order to understand hers. I’m not projecting, I’m rather using mine as a lens with which to views hers, but hers is a clear shape of its own. I just – I really want to emphasize to you all that she, really, is angry and separate from my own experiences of anger. Because, wow, that’s not the kind of anger I generally want to express. But she’s so angry!

And so intent on violence too. She wants bloody revenge. Will she get it? I’m entirely not sure. What kind of relationship will she have with Lage (the dude in green)? I’m beginning to think that their relationship won’t be the happy new father/daughter that I had first thought they’d have. Now I’m wondering if she’s not a loose cannonball that he’s going to try and contain, while being under her thumb (or will he not be under her thumb? Hmmm.).

So yeah, I’m getting more and more excited for this story, to be honest. It’s really growing on me. I like the main character more and more and yeah, the story is growing to be complex, I can just feel it. Thrilling!

Anyways, as usual, I really hope y’all are enjoying the story so far. I certainly am! Much love to you all ❤

Lage’s Game Main Character Sketch -> she really needs a name!

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Five Part One

Trigger Warning: Violence!!!

The next morning was the doctor. If I had listened to Kayla on the drive there, I would have realized we weren’t going to school.

Instead, we drew up to the hospital. It was squat, dirty cream colored, and essentially a glorified square. There was some attempts at grass and greenery, but it remained a cement cube in a city.

The doctor was somewhat like that. He was dusty, old, white, and seemed to just stare at me. I tried to tell him about the man in green. I tried to tell him about the board game. The words choked up in me and I didn’t know how to start. How to begin, how to let it out.

I found tears streaming down my face and I pulled a tissue from the box.

“I’m upset,” I managed to say.

I got excused from final exams. My marks would be tallied from those of my year. I left the office, threw my tissues into the garbage, and sat in the waiting room with my unicorn. Kayla had said to wait for her here. She was doing some phone calls and would be with me soon.

I looked up when the door opened. It was not Kayla.

“Hey,” said the big man that was recognizable even without the ski mask or suit. He was in plain clothes and had a chiseled face that spelled danger. “Let’s go.”

AS the door swung shut behind him, I saw several other men out there. They had come for me in force. All four of them, for one little girl? Cowards. What more did they want from me? I had probably already digested the card and rendered it useless.

I guessed then that they wanted my death. They wanted to punish me for destroying the card. To make an example of me of sorts.

Well. I rose to my feet without thinking. I glared this big man down. Coward.

To my right, across the waiting room, the secretary was busy with her official business, picking up the phone to dial someone. I took a deep breath.

“Come, on,” said the man in a dangerous intone.

I marched out the door, a cold sense of purpose coming over me. I wanted revenge. I wanted to slaughter, main, kill, so badly it felt like I would burst from it. It was like a rising tide, a super-sense coming over me and making me tingle all over, like a volcano about to blow.

Out of the door I walked into the other three men. One placed a hand on my shoulders and, as a group, they began walking me out of the building.

“Hey! Hey!” Kayla had not been far, was just down the hallway. I heard her cry from behind us. In a glance over my shoulder, I saw her begin to run towards us, phone in hand and eyes wide. I could hear her shoes clop-clopping, but the men were faster. The one who had me by the arm took off, darting forward. I was lifted up in his arms. My unicorn fell out of my grasp, tumbling away.

In a blurr I saw the ceiling, was pressed into the mans’ shirt- and saw the two other men stay behind.

Something snapped in me. They were going to hurt Kayla. Innocent, stupid Kayla. My rage boiled over.

I heard myself screaming, and began kicking. I kicked the man who was carrying me in the face. I bit his hand. He did not slow. The exit sign flashed above us, and we were darting down the stairs.

I thrashed, but was over his shoulder now. The second man was in tow, and now we were bursting out the stairs into fresh air.

In the sprint across the flimsy grass, I screamed for all I was worth. I thrashed, bit wildly and gouged my fingers into eyes. The man stumbled. I was thrown and landed in a tumble and scrape on the asphalt.

I was on my feet, the world reeling into sharp focus. There was the man before me clutching his bloody face, another marching towards me, and two more coming out of the building.

Then, to the left, observing, the man in the green cloak.

I drew my keys from my pocket and gripped them tight. I was going to take out eyes. I was burning with my success, was powerful in my rage.

“I’m going to make sure you can’t hurt anyone else!” I heard myself declare. In a rush my vigilante streak was coming out. I’d get them for what they had done to mother. I’d get them so bad.

The man in green was walking over, just slightly faster than the other men. “Get behind me,” I heard him say as he stepped between me and them.

I hissed between my teeth, jumping to the side just in time to see the men collide.

The first man threw a punch, and the green-cloaked intruder dodged, then punched the first in the gut.

I gaped as the henchman doubled over. I was unhurt. The figment of my imagination was… fighting? I stood there and watched as the medieval man threw punches and my kidnappers landed on the asphalt.

Then, he turned to the man who was clutching his face. Bloody and still covering his face with a hand, the wounded man tottered up.

I screamed. “Kill him!”

The green cloaked man did not. Instead he stood back as the wounded man tottered towards the car. He was going to get away!

With a yell, I lunged forward, keys in hand like a knife. The wounded man grabbed my wrist and threw me at the car. I slammed against the back door. Hands gripped at me, and I was yanked forward and back, jolted between the two men who wrestled for me.

“Let her go!” growled the medieval man, and the henchman gave up. With a shrug he threw me towards the other, and jumped into the car. With a rev of the motor, he backed up the car out of the parking spot. I was pulled back and away, turned into the folds of the green cloak. In the distance, I heard the car driving away.

I squirmed and was let go. Stepping back in a stumble, I looked up at my rescuer. He was frowning down at me.

“You’re real!” I declared.

He paused. My gaze jumped from him to the henchmen on the asphalt. Where were my keys? Right there, where the car had been. I grabbed them up and –

“What are you doing?” the man asked, grabbing my shoulder to stop me.

I wrestled myself free only to be grabbed again. “They’re unconscious!” he insisted. “Don’t attack them!”

I wrestled, but he held me back by the scruff of my collar. I was almost out of my jacket when I heard the wailing of a siren. Security!

Then, I fell forward so suddenly that I hit the ground on my hands and knees. I looked up – and the man in green had vanished.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Four, Part Two

I woke up in the hospital. There was white all around me, the curtain was drawn around my bed, and there were voices in the distance. Uncle’s voice.

I looked myself over. A tube in my arm, bruises all over my arms and ugly hospital gown on me, but I was okay. I felt all my limbs.

“You’re alright,” a voice said from beside me.

I startled, and stared at the man who had seemingly appeared. Or had I not noticed him?

It was him. The white man in the green cloak and medieval clothing. He smiled thinly at me. “You’re going to be fine,” he said with a slight nod of the head.

I wanted to scream, but I was frozen. The man sighed like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Hands clasped before himself, he leaned forward.

“You ate the card,” he said calmly.

I stared, trembles beginning to run all over my body.

“You’ve brought the worlds into a collision,” he said in that same calm tone.

I took in a breath to scream- but wasn’t able to put it out. I just choked on the air and stared, wide-eyed.

He rose to his feet. “Going home is going to be hard. But,” he drew my unicorn from under his arm and held it out to me. “I think we can work through that.”

I screamed. He winced, taking the unicorn back as he covered one ear with a hand.

The curtain was swept back. Nurses appeared, uncle and Kayla in tow. But as I gasped and they asked whatever the matter was, the green man had disappeared. He was gone – unicorn with him.

///

I wanted to go to my home. Kayla said I could, but Uncle didn’t think it would be wise. “I need to go get the school papers,” Kayla fibbed, as if she couldn’t get them any other way. “Is there anything you want from the house?”

I shook my head, crossing my arms over my chest. I wanted my unicorn. I wanted- too much. I shouldn’t be greedy.

Now I was in Uncle’s living room. The cousins were at football and uncle had taken a break from me to go with them, leaving Wanda and Kayla with me. Kayla seemed to think getting out would do me good, Wanda wanted me to eat supper in my pajamas and just sleep.

Kayla was saying something, but I turned on the TV, turning the volume up. Kayla pressed her lips together and heaved a sigh. It reminded me of the one the man in green had done. Where was he? How come no one saw him?

“Where’s my unicorn?” I asked, hoping there was some logical answer.

“I don’t know,” said Kayla softly as she rose to her feet. “Listen -”

I looked pointedly at the TV. No listen.

Kayla turned to Wanda. “Need anything? Want anything?” she asked.

“No,” Wanda said with a thankful smile, shaking her head.

So Kayla left. After a few moments of TV drama, Wanda rose and took the remote control from me. She dialed the volume down. “Hun,” she said. “We’re all just trying to help.”

I took up a pillow and hugged it to my chest. My eyes stayed glued to the screen. On it, housewives were debating over something. They were about to fight.

Wanda cleared her throat. “We’ve spoken to the police.”

“We told them you were attacked and they think -” she paused. I stared at the TV. “If there’s anything you can tell them,” she said “It might help.”

I sniffled, but the housewives were throwing hands up and having tantrums.

“The case is – it seems,” she paused and looked at me with that focused adult look. “Your father may have gotten into gang troubles.”

The words crashed over my world. Gang troubles? No. Not father. It was the board game. How come no one would believe it? Because I hadn’t told me. But-

I looked at her. She came into sharp focus- and I saw something shift behind her.

The man was there. Green, brown, and a blonde mass on top.

I froze. My skin turned to a fine sheen of ice.

“Listen,” Wanda was leaning towards me. “If there’s anything you remember that you thought was strange, anything identifying about the men who attacked you-”

Behind her, the man drew out my unicorn and set it on a bookshelf. With a nod at me, he turned and walked away into the kitchen.

Wanda came sharply into focus again. She was saying something, but I couldn’t understand what.

I sat back, curling into myself. The world was shaking around me.

I wrapped my arms around myself, and the world sunk into black.

I came to with the smell of coffee and donuts. Kayla was mopping my forehead with a cold cloth that was too wet, droplets running over my head. Wanda was sitting on a couch, coffee in hand and looking dejected.

“Hey!” Kayla said in a too-cheerful tone as I sat up. There was an open box of donuts on the coffee table.

I looked around. Where was the man? And there he was, sitting in the stairwell, arms crossed and watching me. Again, he just nodded.

It sunk into me like a crashing wave, what had earlier shaken my world. He wasn’t real. He didn’t exist. I had been wrong.

I stared at him, determined to will him away. If he was a figment of my imagination, I could destroy him.

Kayla was saying something about my school exams and having exemptions. I would have to see a doctor. I stared at the man. He watched me back with a frown.

“Did you hear me?” Kayla put a hand on my shoulder.

“No,” I said harshly. I was distracted by the man. By the unicorn that was now on the shelf. By everything in this horrid world.

“Okay, well, you rest,” Kayla said with a teary smile. “You just -”

I got up and marched out of the house. Barefoot I went out the front of the house and marched into the grassy center. I sat down on the bench, head hanging down. Then I told myself not to slouch and straightened. The man in green was walking out of the house towards me.

“Go away,” I hissed between my teeth. “Go, away.”

He arrived to just before me. Much like my cousins had, he crouched down before me. Unlike them, he didn’t just crouch, instead sinking down onto one knee like a knight in mythology.

“I’ll follow you,” he said, in that way that said he meant every of those three words.

I stared at him. “Go, away.” Because he didn’t exist. He was my mind reacting to trauma. He was just me freaking out. “Get- gone.”

Frowning, he rose to his feet.

From way back at the house, Wanda came out in her shoes. I shifted my focus back to the man – but he was gone.

“You can’t stay out here,” said Wanda as she reached me, arms crossed against the cold.

I hung my head and stared at our feet.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Four, Part One

I was suspicious of the man now. Who was he? A figment of my imagination, come to hallucinate and prey on my fears? He couldn’t be real, could he? How did someone appear, only to vanish with an object?

I had searched my bag for my unicorn, even the living room, just in case I hadn’t brought it out with me. But no. My unicorn was missing.

I slept poorly, wondering and thinking and crying the whole night. When I woke, things were no simpler.

Aunt Kayla was there, offering to drive me to school. She looked exhausted, like she’d spent the night at the hospital, but she tried on a smile for me. I didn’t bother returning one.

Over breakfast, Kayla broached the topic of the school. That she had called the school and would be filling out the papers as my new guardian.

“I’ll do everything to make sure you get there,” she said to me, handing out her heart on a platter.

I nodded, wondering where the hell my unicorn was. Going to this school didn’t matter much when strange things were appearing around me, or when They were going to be coming back for me.

On the drive to school, I was quiet. I leaned my head against the cool window of the car, and wondered. I wondered so hard. Kayla tried to start a conversation once or twice, but I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say. How would I explain to anyone who hadn’t seen the board game about everything that was happening? My cousins had seen it, true. But would they understand? They hadn’t seen it come from the wall. They hadn’t seen Them demand it from mother or take it from me.

No one knew anything, I realized, dumbfounded.

At school, the day ground along. I paid attention through first and second periods. Lunch arrived. Third and fourth periods ground by. The final bell rang, and I was free.

I was standing by a picnic table, waiting for Kayla to arrive. The traffic ground by not far away, and cars turned into the parking lot to pick up students. I stood and waited.

I saw him out of the corner of my eye, walking down the street. A tall shape, green and blond. In his hand, presented before himself like a pass-card, my unicorn.

I froze, but was jostled by a group of students running past. I nearly fell over – and now he was only a few strides away from me. I looked up, and froze again.

He looked like something from a medieval reenactment scene. He was wearing a cloak, tunic, pants and boots complete with belt and sword. His jaw was square, his eyes a startling clear blue. His blond hair hung in waves down to his shoulders.

With a smile, he bent over as if bowing and held out the unicorn with both hands.

I held out a trembling hand. My unicorn was precious to me.

My hand didn’t quite reach, but he placed the unicorn in my grasp like it was a precious object. I drew it back to me, mind whirling. Was it now that I drew the card out before him to destroy it? Would he attack me here, with all these witnesses? Or were they just collateral damage to him?

“Hey! Sweetie!” Kayla’s voice rang out.

I turned. Kayla was coming out of her car in the parking lot, anxious as could be. She waved at me, trying on a smile again.

I looked to the man – but he was gone like he’d never been there.

Lesser people might have begun doubting themselves right then. I felt a wave of tears, but crushed them down savagely. Refusing to be gotten the better of – even by my own imagination – I looked down. There, in the grass, were two boot prints.

Hah, I thought.

The ride home was silent on my part. Kayla said how she’d been talking with the doctors, been talking with the school, and – “You can come and stay with me for the summer. Give Wanda a chance to make a nice room for you in the house. Or do you want to go to boarding school?”

Boarding school was expensive, I knew that. But if it was an option, I’d rather that than be with Wanda and her happy family all the time. The thought of being near so much familial happiness made me feel sick. “Boarding school,” I said, deciding that it would not matter much anyways. They would be coming for me before the new school year had begun.

“Okay,” Kayla said, nodding. “I’ll call the school.”

Then, she got us donuts.

It was only two more days before they arrived. I had taken to sitting outside in the evenings, taking my homework with me to sit. That night, a black van arrived into the roundabout. I looked up, and my heart jumped into my throat.

Three large, imposing, and very beefed-up men came towards me, all in badly fitting black suits.

Finally, I thought, finding that I was not afraid. I set my algebra aside with determination. I rose, setting my unicorn down to supervise.

Then, I felt a presence behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the reenactment man walk to me. I was locked in, tall men on either side.

I turned to face the reenactment one, reaching into my pocket for the card. So be it. He must be the new chief. Only someone who was a little silly in the head would walk around wearing that, and one must be silly in the head to want a card this badly.

Hand in pocket, I faced him. He came to a stop a few feet from me, just the same distance as he had been with the unicorn. Again, there was that smile that was disarming. It seemed kind.

“Little lady,” he said, his voice deep but gentle. “What’s your name?”

I held my breath. He should already know my name.

“Hey, kid!” came from directly behind me. I spun, and was now faced with the three large me in black. Behind them, hunched and scowling, was the man mother had attacked. So he lived.

“Your mother’s a-” he was saying as I drew the card from my pocket. His words died away. A light went on in his eyes, in all their eyes. “Good kid,” he crooned, stepping forward between his henchmen. “Give that here.”

I placed my second hand on the card, ready to tear it in two. My hand trembled. I hesitated one second too long.

All four of those men lunged towards me. In a flash I knew I wasn’t fast enough. I resorted to my second plan, what I’d planned to do once the paper was ripped anyways. I ate it.

I crammed the card into my mouth, chewing as fast as I could.

I was slammed back, my hands were jerked away from my face, and I swallowed just as the man started screaming “Stop her! Stop her!”

The world turned black. For a flash I saw the men around me, felt them tearing at me. Their boss was screaming incoherently. I was satisfied.

Then, I hit the ground. Uncle’s voice was shouting.

Oh no, I thought. Another fight. More police. More dead.