Lage’s Game: Chapter Eleven, Part Two

The trees were coated in soft fluffy white snow. The flakes sifted slowly down through the air. A slow breeze slid through the trees, biting through me. I huddled under the cloak, stumbling ever forward through the forest.

It had been what felt like hours that I was walking. The only change in time was the shift of the weather. Sometimes warmer, sometimes colder, and now the snow.

I knew I had to find Lage. Lage, or someone who could bring me back to my world. Somewhere, somehow. I’d be safe there, I told myself. I knew I wouldn’t, but I told myself I would. I told myself that at least there wouldn’t be a stupid princess throwing me in a dungeon with … an assassin? Who rescued me?

I plodded on, gritting my teeth at the complexity of this newfound world. The princess, the dying Queen, the gun, it was all piling together in my head. I knew I wouldn’t be safe in my own world – and stumbled over a branch. My arms flung out to break my fall – and I landed in something white.

Not the snow. A pair of arms.

Slowly, I looked up. Red eyes looked down from a white-as-snow face with icicles for hair.

I gaped. The creature grinned, revealing a fanged set of teeth.

I screamed, jumping back and flailing. The creature was a disembodied thing, a torso with just a whispy tail-like bottoming out. It had hands like claws that were tipped in blue talons.

Spinning, I darted straight back the way I came, floundering through the snow.

A high-pitched chuckle echoed in my ears as I ran, and the ‘thing’ rushed along behind me, in the corner of my eyes, clacking its teeth and snagging at me with its claws.

Breathless, I crested a small hill- and tripped over a root. I tumbled straight down the hill in a blundering blurr of white that bit at me and roots and stones that jabbed into my sides.

When I floundered to a stop, there was a horses’ nose before me. A soft brown horse nose that snorted at me. I scrambled to my feet, thinking that I was lucky – when I saw that there was a guard atop this horse. And on the horse beside it. And on that horse, beside it? Another guard.

A clacking sound from behind made me spin. The strange ‘thing’ was rushing towards me, eyes glowing, jaws open, and blue finger-talons out.

“Enough!” barked a voice. The thing reeled to a halt just before me, its talons a mere foot from my face. It looked to my right, where another horse was stepping forward. On this horse, dappled gray, sat Rebella with her white cloak. “Come,” she ordered, holding out her arm.

With a squeal, the creature turned into a snowy white owl and flapped its way to her arm. There, she gave it a small bit of meat. It looked suspiciously like a dead mouse. Rebella turned her cold glare to me. “It looks like we found it,” she sneered.

My blood boiled. “Me,” I declared. “You found me. Not an ‘it’. I’m a person.”

“Oh, well, person,” sneered Rebella. “There I was thinking you had rocks for brains.”

My fury bubbled over, but I was speechless once more, silent in my white-hot fury. Rebella nodded to a guard. “Take it,” she ordered before wheeling her horse around.

The guard reached down, seizing me by the shoulder. I wrenched free.

I wished for a knife. Some dagger, magic maybe, to help me overcome all of them. Maybe even a gun – which I normally hated.

Between two guards I was lifted up, kicking and biting, up onto one of their horses, before the rider. Then, with an armored arm around my waist, we wheeled around to follow Rebella.

I gave up on fighting as we trudged back through the forest. I turned limp, glaring viciously at Rebella’s back.

I hated her. I wanted to utterly destroy her. She was quickly enlarging in my mind, becoming synonymous with ‘them’. Those hated unknowns now had a face and persona in Rebella.

When we trudged back within the cities’ walls, I had decided that I was going to kill her. No matter what. It was my chance to hit back at ‘them’.

We plodded through the grubby city, the horses’ rhythms suspiciously lulling, annoyingly slow-paced compared to a car. Houses that were mere shacks passed on and on. People covered in filth stared, mouths agape, pointing at me but never at Rebella. She must be a villain they were used to.

What struck me was the silence, though. The people whispered but voices never rose into spoken words with clarity or force. They merely whispered, mumbling from mouth to ear behind hands. Definitely no one shouted.

My chance came when we entered the castle’s walls. There, the guards visibly relaxed. They began laughing among themselves, cracking jokes I didn’t listen to and laughing rowdily. Rebella, however, had her back to us and rode on ahead. That is, until we dismounted.

I was dropped to the ground, aching all over and numb from the cold. But I sensed a window of opportunity. A tingling came over me. Rebella had her back to us still, throwing her reins to a servant. The guards were dismounting around me, trading jokes.

I spun, seizing the sword from the hip of the guard behind me. With a hiss of metal the sword drew clear. I stumbled, but swung it with the momentum, lurching forward at Rebella.

In slow motion, I saw Rebella turn. I saw her eyes widen, her lips part slightly in surprise.

With a shriek, the owl burst at me, wings flapping at my face. I stumbled back.

Time jolted back to full speed. Rebella was before me, the bird tossed aside. She grabbed my arms, wrenching the sword from my grasp. I kicked at her, but she deflected it with a swipe of the leg that sent me falling face-first into the muddy snow.

“You are all so useful,” Rebella sneered at her guards as she turned her back on me once more, dropping the sword to the snow mere feet away from me.

The guards murmured apologies. I staggered up, but was dwarfed by hands. No more freedom for me. As Rebella marched on ahead I was bodily dragged after her, arms held out like a scarecrow. My feet dragged, catching in the stones and earth as we marched into the castle.

This time, we did not enter the huge gardens within that dome. Instead we marched up a flight of stairs, turned left, and found ourselves in a dark corridor. At the end of it, servants lined a room. These guards were adorned in purple with large feathers atop their helmets. The servants exchanged nervous looks, but bowed their heads as Rebella approached them.

“What are you all doing out here?” Rebella demanded, half-yelling. “Why have you left her alone?”

“She ordered-” murmured one servant who was standing before a door. She didn’t finish her sentence, as Rebella took her by the shoulders and threw her out of the way, crushing into the other servants.

“Bring the thing!” shouted Rebella, yanking the door open and barging in.

The guards yanked me forward. I was shoved into the room seconds after Rebella entered it. It was almost a touching scene. Almost.

The grandmother Queen was laying on a giant red four-poster bed with the curtains drawn shut. Rebella had opened one side and was now clasping the grandmother’s hand in both of hers. The grandmother’s good eye was open, but it too was now turning milky white. The decay had almost taken over her entire face.

“Child,” said the grandmother, breath heaving.

“It’s not your time. We need you,” whispered Rebella, clutching the withered hand to her chest.

The grandmother smiled mysteriously. “That’s not how the world works.”

Determination came over Rebella. She lowered the grandmother’s hand. “Get out,” she ordered, backing away from the bed. “All of you. Leave the thing here. I have something to do.”

The guards backed away, shuffling nervously out the door. It shut behind them with a creak and a clap, and I was alone with Rebella and her dying Grandmother.

Rebella wasted no time. With a yank she drew a dagger from her belt. With a toss her cloak fell to the ground and she marched towards me, head held high.

I just wasn’t expecting it.

With a flash of the arm, she stabbed me in the chest. I gasped, the sharp pain slicing through me. I found myself gripping at her arm as she yanked the dagger out of me.

I staggered as Rebella yanked away. The world swam as her back walked away, back to the bedside. My knees struck the floor. I was clutching at my chest, watching the blood seep out from between my fingers. I knew enough to know that this was severe. I was going to die.

And Rebella was still alive.

“Blood of the heart, lift this curse,” I heard Rebella whisper as she was lifting a bloody finger – full of my blood – to her Grandmother’s lips.

“Child, no,” whispered the fading Grandmother. The good eye fluttered closed.

I was taking that bitch down with me, I thought. I saw the dagger set beside her on the bed. I launched myself.

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

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.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 13 part 2

sky space dark galaxy
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Chaos POV

Alright, snooping could wait a little bit. I woke up, slept, and woke up in no particular order. On the third day or time waking up, I decided that something had to change.

Like most citizens in the otherworld (and maybe souls in general), I had a voice that told me to get busy and help out washing dishes or something. The other voice was like “Let’s go find out Lucifer’s deep dark secrets”.

Which one do you think I decided to do?

It was three am, if you’ll fucking excuse me. No one makes wise decisions at that time of morning, not after having starved and drank very little for the past few days.

First off, I pretended that I was actually going to help the servants out. I told myself that ‘nahh, I’m not like that, I’m not a snooper’, so I took myself to the kitchen. There I uncorked a bottle of hard stuff and took a few shots out of the bottle. Great.

I toasted to Aaliyah and Jade (another shot or two) and decided not to cry. Bugger it all, I wasn’t crying any more.

Shelfing the bottle exactly where it had just been, I strolled on out and decided to use my spidey-senses and get to work. Lucifer wasn’t the only one with juju powers, after all, and mine weren’t only for fighting.

Alright, most of mine were for fighting because that’s how I had trained myself. But – I knew a few nifty tricks or two.

Drawing a necklace that had been returned to me from my neck, I dangled the crucifix before me.

Now, what was I searching for? Hey, why not – that friggin’ black box. If I could find it, I could go on my searches and find – Kuryo first, then the Sephira. Then we could both fuck off to some corner of the world and let everything else burn. That’s it. We’d be happy and safe together.

Plunking down on the floor, I set all my magic into the crucifix and willed it to help me find that black box. I even asked it politely to make it easy and plain for me.

This crucifix had been a gift from God when I was born, and yeah, it was an irony that I still wore it. But what drunken me didn’t realize right then was that without God’s presence somewhere powering up his sacraments, this crucifix was as good as a toy doll. Drunk me, however, wasn’t thinking of that. The alcohol had probably started hitting and I wasn’t thinking things through too much.

When I opened my eyes, I released the crucifix turned pendulum. It swung immediately, and I gloated. There we were! I was going to find it!

I followed the swings, not at all surprised when I found myself directed towards the large doors. When I crossed past the doors, I was shocked. Wasn’t my black box somewhere outside?

But no, apparently not. I was led upstairs. Across a dark corridor. Up another flight of stairs. I began to wonder how big this friggin’ house/mansion/castle/thing was when the crucifix began bouncing towards a door to my right. I tried it, but it was locked. Curses!

Crouching down, I peered at the lock. I sensed a weak spell. Good, I thought, let’s bust this fucker open.

Drawing out my daggers, I basically butchered that lock and spell, stabbing it ruthlessly then twisting gracelessly. A real lockpick would have laughed at me and said ‘good luck kid’. Somehow, as if someone was letting me in, the lock and spell gave way.

I grinned to myself. Sliding my daggers away, I picked back up my crucifix and slid into the room.

The room was pitch dark. The door that I’d left open cast in the slightest hue of nightlight from the hallway. My crucifix glinted before me and I advanced, following the glimmer before my eyes got used to the dark.

It was when my legs bumped into something that an alarm went off in my head. It was something – knee height, solid but with a layer of fluff on it. Mind dinging away about danger, I ignored it and reached out, lightly tapping the air until I felt – blankets.

I froze. Blankets?

Then, like a bad feeling creeping over me, my eyes adjusted to the lighting and my brain was finally still enough to listen to the silence.

I heard breathing. And I saw a bed.

Oh god, oh fucking god. I was in someone’s bedroom.

Alright. After a moment of panic, I decided that this had to be some guest’s room- no, probably more a servant’s room with that piddly lock on it. Which – if it was a servant who had stolen my black box, then Lucifer would be glad I found it again, right?

So I looked down at the crucifix. It was swinging so fast it was almost bobbing on the spot. I was close.

Okay, okay. I stretched my arm slowly out, left then right and forward. The crucifix swung – then stilled like a pin. I’d found it.

I looked down. There was the shape of a head, barely there. It must be under the pillow.

Holding my breath, I reached out. And out. Then- my hands touched the pillow ever so lightly. Slowly, so slowly, I began to slide under the pillow.

I held my breath as I pushed so slightly against the weight of the head. I felt – nothing? I pushed a little farther.

“What are you looking for?” Lucifer’s cool voice drawled out.

I shrieked and jumped back, spinning around – and around again to see the figure on the bed sitting up. Blue eyes reflected the light like a cats’.

I wished to faint. I wanted it so bad. A strangled sound came out of my throat.

The shape of Lucifer – still so tall without the heels – stepped to me. The crucifix was snatched from my hand. He wrapped the chain around his hand and closed his fist around the crucifix. Then he stepped towards me.

I spun and bolted. I may be stupid, but I knew when I’d overstayed my welcome.

Except the door shut in my face. I yanked – and nope, no budging it.

I froze, mind whirling. It wasn’t just locked now – it was bound shut. Lucifer must have let me in earlier on, and been watching me the whole time. Oh god.

A hand took my shoulder and turned me around. I thudded my back against the door, crushing myself up against it as my eyes stared forward into darkness. There was absolutely no light. None whatsoever.

His voice spoke, low and sensual. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

“I’m sorry,” I squeaked.

He chuckled. I jumped a mile high when fingers brushed my cheek.

“Shhh,” he shushed me, tipping my chin up. Caresses explored my face, my lips. I heard a sniff. “You’re drunk.” And he laughed. “How disappointing.” The touches vanished from my face.

“Disappointing?” I echoed, mind not processing any of this at all.

A gentle light popped on, shining beside Lucifer’s shoulder. I couldn’t see his face, but uh, his torso was like, right there…

“Go to bed,” he said coolly. “You’re drunk.” The doorknob clicked open at my side.

Something niggled at me to stay. What did he mean – and why had my crucifix drawn me here? But I was terrified. I yanked on that door and fled.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 13 part 1

Kuryo POV

I was frustrated. Day two? Three? in this annoying cage and I wanted to peck someone’s brains out. Literally. I missed everyone. I was restless and physically agitated. Worse, I was curious. I was craving to know what was happening in this world, just beyond the realm of my cage.

Suzy shared none of that. Curiosity? “Why do you care?” she whined endlessly. “We just have to get out of here. Go home.”

I stifled my thought that we might not be able to travel home so easily. What if we were caught again?

Instead, I focused. Today, I was going out. No, not physically. Spiritually, that is, I was escaping. The being here obviously had some sort of link, job, what have you, to have been given all of those charts. So I was going to piggyback off of him and do my best to figure out what I could.

But first, apparently, sex had to be had. The short and portly man from the day I arrived was here again, and all sorts of noises were coming from the bedroom. I rolled my eyes at the ceiling. Suzy was listening intently, too shy to mention leaving the body to go observe, but definitely soaking in all she could. And she said I was the only curious one. Hah!

“We’ll do that one day?” Suzy asked from the back of my mind.

I poked my head under my wing. “I doubt it,” I said honestly.

Suzy was disappointed. She blocked herself off from me as much as she could, practically crossing her arms and turning her back on me.

I closed my eyes and willed this all to be over. All those sounds were reminding me of better days, to say the least. I missed Chaos, Jade, Aaliyah, and especially Charr. Charr… I would get her out of there. She would be fine, eventually. There must be some way to separate her from the Academy.

“Hey!” the man was right beside the cage. I must have dozed off. Now he was watching me, wiggling a wide finger towards the cage. “It’s still alive!”

And you’re still half naked, I thought bitterly. What hasn’t changed?

The slender being swept over, completely naked. “Yes, it’s quite unique, isn’t it? The feathers are so blue! I’ve never seen a crow like that before.”

The man looked the being over with a greedy eye. “There’s better things to look at.”

Barf! I made a hacking sound.

“Oh!” the being stooped over the cage, peering at me. I stopped the hacking noise, glaring at him. He fairly pressed his nose against the cage. “What was that? An egg?”

“A hairball maybe,” yawned the shorter man. “Hey, so you going to the council meeting this afternoon or what? Do I have to be there?”

“As the elected of the people, you do not,” said the being, straightening with a sweep of the long hair. Hair. I focused on the head hair to avoid looking elsewhere (where Suzy was gawking at right now, flooding my mind with very in-depth pictures). But genitals aside, there were more important things present.

I focused on the council meeting. Meeting for what?

The being was easily influenced right then, it seemed. “The meeting to discuss the next dimension,” he prattled off happily. “The one we’ve been aiming at. It might be ground zero, you know.”

The man frowned. “I knew that.”

“Oh,” the being paused. “I thought you’d asked.”

“No,” the man shook his balding head. “I couldn’t give less of a damn about this whole ground zero nonsense. A whole lot of crockery if you ask me.”

Because? I prodded some more, but didn’t have to. The being got fired right up. “I don’t believe you. If we can harness that power – we can redefine reality!”

“And what good will that do us? Hmm?” The human shrugged, scratched his belly, then stretched. “It’s all going to be bollocks anyways.”

“It isn’t! We’ve found a sample-”

“You caught a kid with blue hair. Big deal.”

Normally, I sensed they would let this topic slide between them. But I egged them both on, prodding and poking at their pride to keep them going.

“We caught a version of the triggering element!”

“It has no big powers,” yawned the human exaggeratedly, as if in challenge. “It could have been anyone.”


“And besides, what good is it going to do us to control other worlds? Huh? Ours is still going to be a shit-show.”

The being rolled his eyes and tossed his head. “The point, is to control reality! No more pesky gods in the way. We will have no one but ourselves to account to. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“Say that to the masses,” snorted the man, gesturing towards the porch.

Both looked towards it, and images of squat churches filled their minds. Foolish, they both thought. Praying to dead gods.

Dead? I tried to pull at the strings in their minds. I was filled with images of shattered temples, ruins, and of one sole surviving cult.

“That Sephira,” sighed the being, hand on hip. “I don’t get why they think that god is still alive.”

The man shrugged, all anger now gone. “The idiots need something to cling to.”

The tall being shook out its hair and combed it back from their face. “It’ll be gone soon enough. Once we execute the last of the gods, they will see that they are praying to nothing. No one can stop us.”

The portly man hummed in agreement, scratching his stomach again. Then, with a lecherous grin, he stepped towards the other being.

To summarize: they ended up back in the bedroom. Yark. I put my head back beneath my wing and decided to ignore that noise some more.

Suzy, however, was ecstatic. “If only they could really destroy all the gods! That would be so good!” she squealed. “Then they would be out of the Academy’s way!”

I ignored her as best I could. For some reason, I didn’t think the death of the gods was any sort of good thing. Even if gods were pesky, they were part of the universe. They kept things in order in their own (annoying) way.

After much ado about fucking each other, the two resurfaced from the bedroom, dressed and happy. They completely ignored me, going about getting ready to leave. They snatched up some crusts of that medieval bread and butter, took a sip of wine together, then were strolling on out. It was my chance.

“Watch my body, Suzy,” I said, having already briefed her on this part. As in: to NOT leave my body.

She nodded, and I was off. In human form I darted across the floor and – whoosh- slipped into winged version and landed on his shoulder.

The being didn’t even notice me. He merely rolled his shoulder at the extra weight, then went on locking his door.

Then, we were off.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 11 part 2

Chaos’ POV

I was shaken awake by a white fallen angel, and I mean white like ashes that went through the bleacher. There was no healthy color to those cheeks.

They helped me sit up. That’s when I noticed an IV in my arm and a bottle of magic-potion juice whatever on the hand table. Oh, and Lucifer.

Today he was wearing what looked like an army outfit, in the vein of ‘samurai meet space alien meets red lipstick tube’. There were giant red shoulder spikes, a mosaic-decorated chest piece, and a long black dress under that. Oh, and a very bad mood on his face.

I grunted in a sort of ‘hello’. Lucifer glared at me, arms crossed. There were giant earrings dangling on either side of his face.

The nursing angel began fussing over me, uncorking the potion and making me drink it. It tasted like raspberry juice. The color was like blood – And the memory of Jade and Aaliyah came back to me. I choked on the too-warm liquid and nearly barfed it all up. I managed to swallow it down, but set the bottle aside.

“Chaos,” Lucifer said crisply. The angel was swiftly stepping away and vanishing out the door.

“Lucifer,” I said dryly, looking blearily up at him. He tilted his head to the side and looked even more unpleased. I groaned silently inside myself. Here it was. He was going to be all ‘bla bla bla’ and demand something of me.

Because he certainly wasn’t taking care of me for free.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” he snapped. I scowled up. “Better,” he smirked nastily. “Now. Do you know where your friend Kuryo is?”

“He’s missing,” I croaked. “I was trying to find him.” Then, a few seconds too late, I asked “Why? Why do you need him?”

Lucifer’s smiled was wicked. “We have a certain problem that you’ve brought upon us.”

I blanched. “Me?”

“Oh yes, you,” said Lucifer sweetly. “You see, there’s an invasion happening across the dimensions. I’ve caught wind of it through – nevermind. But! The dimension you were just in is the one that they are right now focusing on. And we are next. Your good friend would be extremely useful for us right now. In fact, we think he’s what they’re looking for.”

My stomach curdled. “He went missing. I- someone is trying to take over Earth? Like, aliens?”

Lucifer shook his head. “No, silly. They’re trying to take over the god realms.”

My jaw fell.

“So, if you were to travel back to your old dimension, it wouldn’t be there that they would have attacked. It would be the gods of that dimension that they would have taken over. I guess eventually they will extend their control over to the physical realm, but what for if they already control its spiritual dimensions?”

My mind skittered to the principals. They were the ones under attack?

I almost snorted. Well, good luck to the aliens. Leave me out of it.

“So what?” I asked sharply. “What does that have to do with me?”

Lucifer smirked. “Well now, that’s an excellent question. Don’t you think it would ‘redeem’ you to everyone if you helped solve part of your giant fuck-up?” And when I didn’t react, he added “Your parents might want to forgive you if you did.”

My head drooped down on its own. I stared down at the sheets and blanket. I had fucked up royally, that was true. But this was Lucifer. He was going to trick me, I was sure of it.

But then – what other option did I have?

I looked blearily up at Lucifer. As soon as our eyes connected he smirked. He stooped down to my eye level and said sweetly “You take some time and think on it, kitten.”

I ground my teeth, aggravated by his sweet perfume and the glimmer in his eyes. I was trying to think of a snarky answer, but he turned and whisked away.

Furious with myself, I fell back down onto the pillows.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 11 part 1

Chaos’ POV

I woke up dehydrated, sick, and tired. But I had to get up. Some unfeeling force propelled me up, to the bathroom – where I retched. Nothing came up. I wandered back into the room, and flopped back down onto the bed on my back. I stared up at the ceiling.

Events came crashing back to me. Bella, my family, Jade and Aaliyah. The complete destruction of my world. Was Kuryo even still alive? And Charr?

I lay there, stunned and useless. But I had to get up. I had to do something. I had to fix this. I had to.

My body just didn’t want to cooperate. I staggered to the door, then aimed straight back for the bed. I collapsed onto it, feeling weaker than I’d felt in ages.

Thoughts whirled in my head. I had to do something. I had to fix things. There was no giving up. There was just going up, right? I had to – the Sephira! And – Kuryo! Find them! And-

The door to the room opened. Lucifer marched in, followed by a one winged fallen angel. The servant was expressionless, but Lucifer looked cross.

Just to make a point, he stood at my foot and looked down at me. I looked up dizzily. You never noticed how much a room wants to spin until you’re trying to focus on someone.

“Chaos,” Lucifer snapped, crossing his arms over his chest. Which, by the way, was still on display. Did he even know how to do up shirts? It was distracting. Today’s attire was a silky black dress – like thing with lots of bling-bling. Ugh.

“Chaos!” he barked. My eyes flew back open. Had I closed them? I tried to sit up, but that was too much. I flopped back down.

“Vital essence decreasing,” intoned the fallen angel. “Not much power left.”

Lucifer snorted and tossed his hair over his shoulder. “Great. Why is it always me left to pick up the stragglers?”

I made an outraged choking sound. Lucifer turned his back on me and whisked away. The servant followed him, and the door was shut.

I lay back down, mind whirling. I had to have a plan. I needed to think.

Darkness closed over me.


Kuryo’s POV

I woke to the sound of Suzy sobbing. I looked around and there were these golden bars – oh for crying out loud, I was in a golden birdcage. Sprawled on a fluffy cushion, sure, but still in a birdcage.

I squawked and got up, rattling myself – and ohhh, I was concussed. Ouch.

Flopping back down I looked around. The apartment of sorts was made of steel this and iron that and, would you believe it? It looked rather modern, but bizarrely non-medieval. Like someone with a steel fantasy redid a medieval home. It was weird.

Next to me on the table was, you guessed it, more steel implements. They were all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that I hadn’t the slightest idea what they were for.

Okay, focus. I was in a cage, on a table. But the real problem here was whether or not I could travel. Maybe my head injury was to blame, and I had better lay tight until that cured. Maybe, just maybe, it also was my wings. If so, then I was screwed for a good few months – if this moron didn’t remember to keep them trimmed in the meantime.

So I tried again. I focused my will and power. I felt the aether, the life in the sun outdoors and the fire crackling in the nearby fireplace. I felt the spirits of the beings in the floor above and the floor below us. I tried to seize the moment and fly through it all.

Again, that lurch. The non-movement.

I opened my eyes and nearly had a fit. There the blond being was, peering at me with large blue eyes.

“You’re awake!” he crooned, waving fingers at me. “Are you hungry?” He drew out a crust of bread from the pile of junk on the table. He offered it to the bars, then smiled. “Will you be a good bird?”

I scowled as hard as I could, which wasn’t much. I knew two things. One) I needed to pretend to be a normal bird. Two) I needed to also stay on his good side so he wouldn’t eat me for supper or something dumb like that.

So I squawked and cocked my head to the side.

“What are you doing?” sobbed Suzy, still having a fit. “He’s a monster!”

“He’s going to feed us, and we’re going to gain his trust,” I soothed her. “Then, we will escape when he’s not looking.”

Suzy wailed, but I ignored her. Instead I focused on the Blondie, as I decided he was to be named. He was opening the cage’s door and holding out a hand. “Come here,” he crooned, holding the bread above his palm.

I hopped forward and pecked at the bread. Which was, for the record, medieval in structure and tastes. Ugh. Bran and whole grains and all that stuff. Not a good mouthfeel. Are crows even supposed to eat bread?

“What a good bird,” he crooned as he began stroking my feathers.

‘What a good human,’ I wanted to answer back. ‘Feed me more.’ But of course he wouldn’t get that. But I was in such a terrible mood that I wanted him to understand that I wasn’t his pet. So I slid into his mind, ready to tell him what a jerk he was. Except it was filled with images that had nothing to do with me.

There was images of the Academy, thoughts of war and conquering, gods and demons, and what oh what would they do with the Trinity?

I froze, beak full of bread. This – his mind was a treasure trove of information. Of something concrete that was going on.

“Of course!” Suzy wailed behind me. “He’s probably one of the seniors of the Council! They’re the ones trying to invade the dimensions!”

Of course. But- I tweaked his mind lightly, making him keep thinking as he caressed my back feathers. What of the Trinity?

A frown came over his face. The Damned Trinity, he thought.

With a scowl he stepped back, ushering me back into the cage.

Hey, wait! What about the Trinity?

But he was walking away, mind full of anger and boiling thoughts. I kept up the link as he paced about, but his thoughts were messy and uncategorized. It was hard to understand, full of strange references and numbers and details.

Frowning, I tried to piece it all together. I prodded some more at his mind, wondering what exactly ought to be done with the Trinity.

Destroy it, was the immediate answer. Destroy it and all those pesky gods.

Oh, crap.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 10 part 2

Kuryo POV

The thing about being so short is that skirts and all that are horrible eye magnets. There were two people who came out onto the balcony, and oh my. The bird in me squawked and cocked my head, saying (in bird speak) ‘Are you serious?’.

It was a grizzly old man (it had to be) wearing no medieval tights to cover his stumpy and hairy legs or anything else up there. And that tunic! Too short, my friend. Too short.

Just as I was ogling this man who was definitely a human by his shortness, another being swept out onto the porch, barely dressed as well. But this one it was the top that wasn’t quite dressed. They had on a deep reddish brown robe that looked like a dress, and it was open down to the waist and draping off one shoulder. They had long blonde hair that swept down past their hips and bright eyes. He (it looked like a he) exhaled smoke and stepped to stand beside the man, offering a pipe.

I eyed their feet. Both wore about the foot size (did that matter?). They were speaking, though, and I paid attention, pecking aimlessly at the wood of the balcony to look like I was doing something.

“We will have the shipment ready soon,” said the human, puffing at the pipe. “Don’t worry about that.”

“I’m not worried about that,” said the other being. “I’m worried about this new dimension they’ve got their eyes on. It’s apparently quite the chaotic one.”

“Oh?” the man chortled. “I’m sure it won’t be a problem.”

I eyed the two of them with one eye. A dimension? Conquering?

The pipe was passed back to the alien or whatever they were. He puffed at it for a moment, then returned it to the human. “You know, it’s quite strange, this world,” and he sent smoke up into the air. “Very religious,” and he gestured to down below. “Like here, but worse.”

“Well good for you. Makes good slaves,” the man chuckled nastily.

Suzy, who had been slowly whimpering since their appearance, now began to cry in the back of my mind.

“What?” I asked within myself.

“I don’t like them,” she whispered. “They’re the conquerors. They’re the one fighting me, the Academy, for the gods.”

I squawked. “For the gods?”

The blond man looked down at me. He exhaled smoke. “Oh, look. It’s blue. A blue crow.”

The man snorted. “Filthy things. Kick it.”

“Hmm,” the blond man stooped, chuckling. He held out the pipe to me. “Want some?”

I eyed him, then the pipe. Okay, a magical-looking pipe? A perfect wizard-like thing? I wanted it.

Slowly, I nibbled the tip. It made the tall man laugh. “Look!” he said, turning slightly to say it to the other man. “It wants some!”

Then I yanked it from him and took off. Fuckers!

Wham! I hit an invisible wall just above the railing of the balcony. A shimmer of a spell let me know what happened.

“You idiot!” squealed Suzy in the back of my mind. “You stupid stupid-”

I flopped gracelessly down onto my back, the world whirling. A blond head poked above me, laughing. “The poor thing!”

The world careened some more as I was lifted. I was held up to eye height as the man stood. “Think it’s injured?”

“Who cares?” asked the other man. He picked up the pipe and wiped it off on a sleeve before eyeing it suspiciously. “Just chuck it over the edge. It’s dirty.”

This man hummed. A hand gripped me solidly and we turned. In the back of my mind Suzy was weeping.

We stepped into the building, and I couldn’t detect much of what was going on. I was badly concussed, I guessed. The world span and I was handled this way and that, flipped over.

“What are you doing?” asked the ugly man, now puffing inside on the pipe.

“Oh, you know, I like feathers,” said the blond man.

I heard a strange ‘snip-snip’ right next to me as my left wing was extended.

“He’s cutting your feathers!” Suzy shrieked, making the inside of my head rattle.

My feathers? I squawked, trying to peck at the hand – which made my head thud awfully. But my feathers! I scrambled, flapped – and was held quite solidly by the shoulder. A giant pair of shears appeared at my right side and snip! A huge chunk of my wing feathers fluttered away.

I shrieked. My feathers!

“There we go!” the shears were laid aside and I was cradled in two hands, held up to a strangely modern lamp in the ceiling.

“Fuck you!” I shrieked, jumping out of the hands. Flap flap- thud. I hit the floor right before the short mans hairy feet. Ugh.

The world spun and the short man was laughing. “It’s so stupid!”

Horror drenched through me. I shuffled along on the floor, flapping desperately. But there was no traction. No wing grabby power. Squawk!

I was scooped up from behind. “Come here, you thing,” and I was placed on a pillow on the table. “There. You just-” my head was patted and it was like an anvil striking me. “Stay here.”

I wanted to barf. My head was hurting so bad and now everything else was aching from all my falls – and Suzy was sobbing. “We’ve been caught!”

“Of course not,” I shushed her. “This is just a setback. The minute they turn their backs, I’m out of here.”

Because, really, if dimensions couldn’t hold me back, how could this building? The minute they looked the other way, I was going to hop my way out of here and that would be that. I’d pop onto another building and never go on a balcony again.

It took some time. The tall man fussed around me for a good few minutes, setting a bowl of water before me and a crust of bread. Ech. Go away!

Finally, they did go back out onto the balcony. Good.

I focused. Felt my power through the throbbing pain and nausea. Then I sent myself forward – and lurched.

I opened my eyes, feeling a strange tingling all over myself. A certain lack of…

“They’ve cut your wings!” Suzy was wailing.

Yes, but – that can’t be the crux of my power. They’re just wings.

I tried again. And again. And finally, head pounding and retching from the pain of it all, I dropped down onto the pillow. The world span and I gave up for the time being. Maybe I was just too sick to do this properly.

It certainly couldn’t be because of my wings being cut.