Discussion on Mental Health and Paganism – Where are the Disabled Folks?

I saw an article the other day, in a free pagan magazine. Yay! It was about mental health and paganism. Wow! I was so excited!

Yay, yay, yay, I thought as I first saw the page-long article. Something interesting to read! Finally, some in-depth something on the topic!

Uh, yeah no. After a few sentences, then a quick skim-through, I was instantly depressed. Because apparently, just because we say ‘merry meet’, we’re a welcoming bunch. And the fact that we do fire gazing? Wow, that, like, taps us into ourselves and allows us to be grounded and shit. And the way we say ‘so mote it be’? Well, that allows us to accept things as they are. So, basically, (according to this author) we pagans are well equipped to deal with mental health issues because of these three things.

I was floored. What. The. Fuck.

This article, in my personal opinion, was like saying you get your vegetables from a pumpkin spice latte (Hint: there’s no pumpkin in most pumpkin spice lattes). I mean, really? Really? Not only was this a super-shallow discussion on the topic which failed to acknowledge SO MUCH of the discrimination that happens in neopagan circles, it felt like it was written by someone who had NO knowledge on the topic.

Now, maybe that person does have lots of insights and experience, but that their one article was just poorly written. Because really, it felt like a lazy slap in the face. It was just like a cotton-candied fluff of an article saying ‘don’t worry, it’s all fine, we’re the best, and here are my poorly-researched reasons as to why’.

Ughhh. Here, let me recap for you: most pagans don’t believe in medications, which are essential for most mentally ill people. Most pagans not only demonize psychiatric medication, but they also straight-out prohibit people taking certain medications from entering into their circles. Oh, and many pagans think mental illness ‘doesn’t exist’, so it’s all fake and we don’t really need clinical help. We should just, go trip out with a shaman or something and tada, we’re all cured. (this is a simplistic recap, by the way, but it would be a HUGE rant if I got into details about it).

I guess my point for this article is to vent, and to really say -> please don’t brush off this topic. It’s a real, vital, topic. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s meaningful and deep, and has repercussions for people’s mental health. To claim a hostile environment is, in fact, safe, juts because you haven’t experienced the discrimination as a non-mentally ill person is… flabbergasting? To put it nicely.

Also, why is it that there are so few wide-spread articles on paganism and mental illness from seriously disabled mentally ill peoples? Why is it that the articles I find are from people who had mild depressive bouts, not people who are schizophrenic to the point of a disability, crippled by anxiety to the point of a disability, or people with uncontrollable OCD? Why don’t we get people talking about their experiences as Wiccan or pagan in a psych ward?

It feels to me that our discussion, which should be written by very disabled and chronically ill people, is instead being discussed by abled and at best temporarily incapacitated people. Even the course I’m taking on self-healing at Woolston is not led by an ill person, but instead by an abled (to my knowledge) practitioner, and I find it shows in their approach. I really wonder how the discussion would look if we instead had all the disabled and chronically ill through mental illness folks sitting at this table. If you do have resources that are written my disabled folks, especially blogs and such, I’d love to read them. But for now, I’ll just grump and brood in my corner.

Writing a Book?

Yeah, I know, wow. The author wants to write ANOTHER book. But, hear me out here, this one would be about *drumroll* -> me.

Me, my story, my vulnerabilities, my lived experiences. My spiritual experiences. Now, my knee jerk reaction is that this seems incredibly selfish. After all, what I’ve gone through is not necessarily that interesting for anyone else than me. And besides, I have shit for memory. My memory is like a blended fruitcake that was then strained. Only chunks remain, and they ain’t sweet anymore.

But – would this be useful for me? Would this story help me heal? Would it force me to come to terms with things? I don’t know. I hope so. I feel – I don’t know. Having been told by my psychiatrist to get in tune with my emotions struck a chord in me. I’ve upped my medication, yes, but I want to up my inner game as well. I want to gain some inner strength.

So my question to you all is, have you done this before? Have any of you written out your experiences as a therapy, and shared it for others to read? How did that help you? Was it difficult? Did it really help, or was it just mush?

And finally, I’d like to ask you, my faithful readers, how you would like me to go about this? Would you like snippets posted here and on other sites? Or should I just focus on writing it all, then decide what to do with it? How would you go about writing a book about your life, especially if your brain is something like a mix of swiss cheese and apple pudding as far as memory retainment goes? What would you like to know about me? Ideas on what to focus on?

Magic and Mental Exhaustion/Depression

I saw my psychiatrist recently. When she asked me how I was feeling, at that instant, I couldn’t tell her. Even when I was tearing up, I couldn’t get in touch with my emotions. Well, she said, time to get in touch again.

And so I’ve signed up for an emotional healing course at Woolston. Long story short, we were doing a fire grounding exercise and it made me feel sick. But the important thing was that when I did the next exercise, I realized that I didn’t have the inner energy to shield myself.

Now, a little idea clicked within me then. Maybe a bit dumb, but it bears laying out for those of us with magical lifestyles. And that is that: when you’re mentally/emotionally exhausted, you won’t have the energy to draw on for energy/magical practices.

Be it writing into a candle, or reaching down into the earth, I found that it was inaccessible. I did not merely feel tired, but I had no energy to reach within to tap into. The pool inside was empty, to the point of making me feel sick when I tried to expel/use some.

Alright, so? What’s the use of that?

The use of this is, if you are depressed and chronically ill/fatigued, do magic that doesn’t require you to have any inside of you. Wield the magic of the runes, of the woods you live next to, or what have you. But if you feel dead beat tired and emotionally spent, you might just have no energy, and your spell work may hurt you more.

So be wise, and be a vampire! I’m joking, of course. But really, try and find passive ways of doing magic and grounding. Ask the gods for aid, use elemental magic, and do grounding techniques that don’t require you to output energy first.

Currently I am trying to do grounding and body check ins (as is instructed in the class) and I shall see if any more insights come from that.

I hope this helps someone.

The Birdie Wheel of the Year Book is Available NOW!

It’s true! Cuteness abounds, adventure awaits, and the TwoLoveBirds are at it again in this lil’ picture book!

I wish I had quotes from big-frilled people to tell you how awesome and adorable this bookie-book is. But I don’t. I’ve showed it only to my team at Evergreen Crossing, and my wife. Both are a little biased in their love, I think.

But just look at this wee picture!

Again, as usual, if you are splendidly broke and wishing for a pdf version for your children, feel free to contact me. I will gladly give it, in exchange for some sort of promotion or a review.

As for me, well, life has been hard lately. Really, super-duper, hard. I’ve had to drop out of Woolston because of lack of functioning due to life issues. I’m getting my meds revised, too. Overall, I’m keeping my chin up, and the worst patch is over. But, still, it’s like a grieving with waves of ups and downs (or so my social worker tells me). Right now I’m on an up, but I foresee dark places for the next few months. Especially around the upcoming Christmas.

On the upside, I am still able to write (yay!) and am working on a new romance novel that tackles mental health issues. I will keep you all posted with updates eventually!

Much love to you all, and thanks so much for your continued support. It means the world to me ❤

Birdie Book!

Me and my fabulous team from Evergreen Crossing have gotten quite seriously underway for this latest project – so I’m so so pleased to announce that *drumroll* I’m going to be releasing a book on the Wheel of the Year!

Just look at dis pictah!

Doesn’t it just give you all the squees? All the happy fuzzy feels? Yessss.

I don’t want to say too much yet, but it’s about the Wheel of the Year, it’s featuring the birdies, and it’s adorable and has SO many FUCKINGLY cute pictures in it. I know that there’s a lot, because I’ve done a ton and there’s still TWENTY fucking TWO left to do. And it’s cute because, yeah, birdies.

So yep, lots of work done, lots more to do, and that’s about all I wanted to say today.

I hope y’all are doing well. I’ve been struggling, but I’m managing to keep my head above water, and that’s what counts. So take care all, and I wish you all the best ❤

Another Farfadel Novel!

Wow! I got into a writing groove today and FINISHED the Farfadel novel I was working on! As in, I finished the rough draft. Roughly. In the draft form, 😄.

What is this novel about? Well its hugely LGBT+, and a romance, and a happy silly novel. Also it has dinosaurs 🦕 🦖, so you know you need to read it!

But on a more serious note, im finding myself wondering how im going to go about getting the news of my novel out there. Im so bad at networking. Whenever someone does end up reading my novels, especially the Farfadel ones, I get rave reviews. But I just have to get them out there. And I dont want to do traditional publishing (you need the same amount of so ial networking anyways). I think it would be really hard to traditionally sell an lgbt+ childrens book, to be honest.

So, I’m thinking of doing a book tour, on the blogosphere and other places on the web. Do you want to help out? I can give out goodies like pdfs of my book, mail you bookmarks and pictures and stuff like that in exchange for a certain amount of help!

Anyways, please comment on this blog if you’re interested, have ideas for me, or just want to chat, or message me at mdaoust245@gmail.com! I’d really love to get some help and I’m sure you can’t wait to read more about Farfadel so… win win? Hahaha, I wish you all the best! Have a lovely day ❤

The future book cover, maybe!

Lage’s Game: Chapter Twelve, Part Two

Rebella took me through the castle and to a hall. It had an arched ceiling that lent it all an air of grandeur, except that was wasted, for the hall seemed to have lost anything worth mentioning. It was empty, really. There was a throne, guards, but the walls were bare. The throne was a stone seat, but it had pockets and chunks missing from it, as if gems had been pried off it. Rebella’s sister was pacing before the throne, and before here were ‘them’.

Oh, I could recognize them alright. There were three of them. They weren’t the same ones as had been sent after me before, but they had an air of familiarity to them, what with their polarized fleece winter coats and thick snow boots. They wore reflective sunglasses, hats, and lots, lots, of guns.

“I found her,” announced Rebella, dragging me into the hall after her. With a haughty tip of the head, she presented me to ‘them’. “Here you go.”

“How do we know it’s really her?” asked the man who was standing in the front of the other two.

“That’s not our problem,” said Rebella sharply. “You should have known what you were looking for.”

The man tilted his head to the side, and I wondered if Rebella was about to earn herself a hole in the head. Did I want that to happen?

The closest ‘them’ took a grip on my shoulder and wrenched me to their side. He held up a device to my shoulder, and it beeped. He nodded to the others.

“We’re going,” said the head one to the Queen. She nodded, obviously relieved.

“Have a nice trip,” said Rebella with a smirk.

The goons looked at her. I was beginning to sweat. My stomach was doing flips in my chest. I was cold, hot, and wanted to be done with murder – if I could bring myself to do it.

Where was my anger? Where was that blood-infused strength? I didn’t have it now.

They dragged me after them, marching out of the hall. My heart was pounding in my throat. The world flickered on and off, and I was just registering glimpses of what was around me. It was all happening too fast. I wanted to stop, to pause, but it was all too much.

They loaded me onto a snowmobile where they should have been riding horses. Servants watched earnestly. I felt a cold knot in my stomach, and I was trembling.

The engines revved. Servants startled away, and we zoomed off.

The city flashed by, the cold wind slapping and biting me in the face. It brought me back to life.

I was going to die, I realized. Or worse. These people meant business – and I realized I had two options ahead of me.

Screw Rebella, I could go with these ‘them’ and settle things once and for all. I could go to their nest, their boss, and slay him.

Slay him? I was rattled from that thought by the foreign-ness of it. Who was that, thinking that in my head?

But now I was cool, calm, and unafraid. I felt composed, ready. Beneath it all was a boiling anger, a power that was just waiting to surface. I was there.

As I realized the presence of this… presence? Within myself, it slipped back over my mind.

Coldly, I thought again of my options. I could kill them in their nest. Slay their chieftain. Or I could slay these ones and flee. Flee again! I was tired and sick of running. But did I have a choice? Was I strong enough, at one, to defeat them in their nest? Would they let me close enough to utterly destroy them?

They first gates, those of the castle, whizzed past. Horses and people were now jostling out of the way. We had to slow, and that gave me precious time.

Two paths, so clear, lay before me. All involved death and bloodshed, but I was settled for that. It was nothing to me now, just another consequence of life. But was there a third path?

Lage, I thought. I swallowed his card.

Nagging, in the back of my mind, I knew that meant something enormous. Gigantic. Could I call upon him like these other spirits? Would I be able to summon him to my aid? I was not sure, and certainly did not know how.

Then there was Ekundayo’s necklace. But what good was that? I dismissed it almost as swiftly as it had come up.

No, two paths it was. Which one?

Guards rushed, people screamed, and we were at the final gates. The guards watched nervously, and we whizzed past them. The warm stench of the city was now gone, and we were out in the biting cold. Snow churned up around us.

Now, a voice called out within me. It called, if such a thing was possible, through my chest. From the stone, I realized coldly.

Rebella, you bitch, I thought. You’re watching me.

Distantly, I heard her laugh. Come back to me, she ordered.

I held my stillness. I was still not sure which path I was to take. In fact, I was beginning to drift towards the first. Not only because it was delayed action, but because I wanted things to end. Let me have closure. Let me close this chapter.

The forest, black trees on a white background, it all went by within the deafening roar of the machines. A familiar dolmen appeared, then grew in the distance. Beside it stood Lage, wrapped in his cloak with a spattering of snow atop his shoulders.

The snowmobiles drew to a jarring halt before the dolmens. “Here,” said the goon in charge. “We pay the toll.” He drew a pouch from his pocket and handed it to Lage. Lage, looking tired and drawn, accepted the pouch. He pried it open and looked within.

I heard a strange whispering, the cries of souls on the wind, and felt a sense of whimsical homesickness. How I missed having my own souls, being paid my own tributes.

Shoved off the snowmobile, I returned to my senses. I was just a kid, a teen. Fear seized me. Cold bit through me. In a flash I wondered at what was happening in my mind – what was this presence taking over me?

But then I was cool again. Controlled. I rose to my feet as the goons, the soldier I realized they must be, dismounted their snow machines.

My eyes met Lage’s. In a flash I knew he didn’t want this. He would help me – if he could.

Then help, you bastard, I thought. And he heard me. He lifted his head, holding up the bag. Cleared his throat.

The goons looked at him. It was a fleeting distraction, but it was enough.

In one fluid motion, I drew the gun from the holster of the guards’ hip. Bang, bang, bang. I heard the shots, but didn’t so much register what was happening. In a blink, I heard yells. Heard the almost silent thud of the gun hitting the ground. Felt the touch of the dagger in my hand.

I came to, wiping my dagger clean on their clothes. Lage stood there still, the bag now closed in his hands. Three heads lay at my feet, still bearing their sunglasses. Should I keep them? Did I want these souls as mine?

“Thank you,” I heard myself say to Lage. I turned to him.

“Who are you?” he asked softly.

I felt humor come over me. I laughed, and the voice was jarring. Again, I shifted. Panic swelled over me. Was I-? Who was this in me? What was this feeling of – otherness?

But then it slipped back over me. I was calm, controlled. I held out a hand. “Give me those souls,” I demanded. Not that I needed the food. But a girl likes an army, doesn’t she?

Lage’s Game: Chapter Ten, Part One

The rush of prisoners before us scattered at the top of the stairs, parting left and right into corridors. The creature, whatever he was, led me to the right. There we rushed down a narrow corridor. The prisoners ahead of us tangled with guards in brawls they lost. We wove around the messes and he drew to a halt at a window. The glass pane opened outwards, and he climbed up, sidling sideways so his body could slip out.

A guard yelled at us. The creature held out a hand to me. I hesitated.

I was seized from behind by the shoulders. I burst, a wave of anger suddenly crowding my mind.

I screamed, I lashed out. I felt the surge of power and adrenaline taking over. I wrenched myself free, jabbing elbows against armor and thrashing with all my might. The world had dissolved in a haze of red. The guard grappled at me – but was slammed back by a kick from the creature who was half back in through the window. Again, the hand was thrust at me.

This time I took it. I was yanked up, onto the window’s ledge. My hands gripped the edges of the window, and a rush of cold air greeted me. A drop opened up beneath us, one large story down.

“Climb on my back,” the creature said, taking one of my hands and putting it on his shoulder. I climbed, swinging my legs around his waist and gingerly grappling at his neck beneath the hood.

Too soon, the creature, man, began to scale the wall. I yelped as we moved away from the window, tightening my grip on his neck and locking my legs around his waist. But we did not fall. Instead we scurried down, to the side, and climbed atop the wall that separated the castle from the rest of the city.

He didn’t stop to set me down. Guards rushed us, but they were too slow. He had already jumped off the wall, scurrying down like a spider to the ground below.

The guards shouted from atop the walls, but they could do nothing it seemed. He ran, darting through the crowds of people to slide in narrow alleyways between houses. After several dizzying turns, he slowed to a stop.

“You can get down now,” he said gently, bending over slightly. “We should be safe here. At least for a little while until the guards recover their senses.”

Trembling, I set myself on the ground. I gripped my hands into fists, trying to calm myself.

In these shadows, I could see the one who had set me free much better. He was certainly tall, but maybe he was still a human. Yet something about him forebade it.

“Show me your face,” I ordered. What was he? Some monster? He had already admitted to being an assassin. How much worse could it get?

He smiled, flashing those white teeth. “Bossy. That’s good. But here, just for you,” he bent over before me, lifting the beaded fringe from his eyes and with it, the hood up off his head.

His eyes were brilliant golden set with sparks in them that gleamed. They reminded me of cats’ eyes in their roundness and their tilt. He had a tall forehead, from which grew a myriad of thin silver dreadlocks. Beside those dreadlocks, pointed ears poked out.

An elf?

He ran a hand through his hair, flashing me a grin again as he stooped before me. “You see? Our hair is the same. I’m just much older than you.”

I was pretty sure I’d never have actually silver hair. Just gray, if I lived long enough to get old. He was trying to make me like him. I was determined not to, putting on my most sour expression.

His smile didn’t falter. He straightened, brushing his hood back up. “The sun hurts my eyes,” he explained as he set the fringe back into place. “And the fringe helps me hear the spirits. I’m a shaman, you know.”

I didn’t answer, looking around. We were in a tiny crackle of a space between four buildings. A crossroad of sorts. The snow was trampled into the mud, proving that this was a well-used path.

“We’ll need to find you clothes,” he hummed. “Something practical.”

I didn’t answer, but I knew he was right. My yellow and pink pajamas, now covered in filth, were sorely out of place even if I hugged the guards’ red cloak around myself. And something besides socks would be good. Now that I relaxed, my feet were frozen. They stung with cold.

The elf looked around. “Should I kill someone? It would have to be a young woman, or do you wear mens’ clothes?”

“Don’t kill anyone,” I griped, deciding that there had been enough death already. “We can just – steal.”

He laughed. “How ideal. How shall we do that?”

I looked around again. “We should get moving,” I muttered, not wanting to admit that, unlike in movies, there didn’t seem to be laundry hanging haphazardly around for easy plucking. Did people not do laundry in winter?

“This way then,” said the elf, nodding to the right with his head. His fringe’s beads caught the light and glimmered. “I know what we shall find for you.”

As we walked, he began to talk. “My name is Ekundayo. What about yours?”

I didn’t answer, glaring ahead.

“Very well,” he said cheerfully. “I will call you simply ‘apprentice’. How is that?”

I frowned at him. “I am not your apprentice,” I hissed between my teeth.

“Oh but you see, it shall be useful,” he said, lifting a finger at me. Then, he winked. I scowled.

We walked for several more minutes in silence until several people appeared beside the buildings. They stepped out of the alleyways and barred our path.

I hesitated, slowing. These people were all hues of dirt and scuffed even worse than the ones I’d seen when entering the city. They meant trouble.

But Ekundayo put a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t be afraid. They’ll smell it,” he murmured happily.

And so we walked on to greet these bandits.

They seemed baffled by this behavior, or more so by something about Ekundayo. They looked from him to me and back again, frowning. There were four of them, and they looked at each other with arms crossed and large knives at their belts.

Ekundayo inclined his head and said something in gibberish, starting with “Shee, shee.”

The bandits shuffled their feet. They looked at me. The woman that stepped forward with a lifted chin answered in that language to Ekundayo, nodding at me.

Ekundayo placed a hand on my shoulder, and he laughed softly before saying more gibberish.

After another curt exchange, the bandits stepped aside. Ekundayo patted my shoulder and we walked on past them.

“What was that?” I hissed after we were out of earshot. “What did you say?”

He chuckled, pulling the hood up onto my head. “You’re going to have to learn the language of the poor to live here, apprentice. Only the rich speak your language.”

I paused. It had never occurred to me before that English was not universal. But now… “Teach it to me,” I ordered. I’d need it, certainly.

More smiles. Another chuckle. “About what was said. I told them you were my daughter, spawned with a noblewoman, and that I’d finally rescued you from their clutches.”

I gaped. He winked again. “It explains you not speaking a word of the poor speech. And why you look so out of sorts.”

Anger rose within me, a steady burn in my chest. “I’m not your daughter, and I’m not your apprentice. Stop imagining things!”

He shook his head, tutting. The fringe on his hood rattled. “Children these days,” he scoffed before chuckling again. Then, he pointed to a shack that looked no different from the others. “There,” he said. “We will find our friends there, daughter.”

“I’m not your child!”

He laughed.

Escape! ~ Lage’s Game: Chapter Nine, Part Two

I stared at the nearly invisible creature. Of course I wanted to get out. This was a trap question. Of course I wanted out – but what would it cost me? I peered so hard at the creature, trying to think and guess at what it wanted – and then it laughed.

It was a clear, high laugh. Menacing? Cold? It sent chills down my spine.

“I said! Enough!” the guard marched over, banging a thick sword against the bars. “You there!” and he rounded on the last cell, the one with the monster in it.

“Are you talking to me?” the hoarse voice asked. The shape twisted upwards, stretching up, up, up until it was like a tall human, facing the guard. “Do you want to fight?” It was curious, questioning like a child. The hands wrapped around the bars before the guard. But the guard had brought a lamp with him, and I finally saw the creature as he held it aloft.

It was a humanoid shape, wreathed in a large purple cloak with silver-white embellishments shrouding the eyes in a fringe that hung down to the cheekbones. The skin was black like the darkest hue of nighttime, the lips were thin, the nose hooked, and there was a grace to its smile.

“Stand back!” barked the guard, banging at the bars where the creature’s hands had been.

“Oooh,” murmured the creature. “Frightening.”

The guard paled. “Enough!” But he had already lost this battle.

“Shut up,” hissed the creature, turning away from the guard to face me. Beneath the cloak I saw a fluttering of a grey robe, a sash from which hung dozens of braids, and boots. But then the cloak was drawn fast around the creature once more.

It is probably a human, I thought to myself, but I wasn’t sure. Was it?

It crouched again before the bars separating us, its dark hands coiling around the bars. “Who brought you in here, child? Far from your world, aren’t you?”

I didn’t answer, huddling on myself. The guard bellowed again. “Quiet!”

The creature turned to him, then back to me. It was a strangely silent movement. Their fabrics barely rustled. They sat down and crossed their legs before themselves. They must be human.

Breathing a sigh, the guard turned and walked away. With him went the light, and some semblance of safety.

Once the guard was back at the other end, the creature whispered. “I was brought in for murder. But you can trust me. I’m an assassin.”

I wanted to clap my hands over my ears and curl up into myself. I wanted to block out this entire strange world.

“I kill in cold blood. I don’t make them suffer. I’m not like them,” he whispered.

My senses prickled. Them? Did he know- he couldn’t, could he?

I found myself turning to look at the creature. His tilted eyes were glowing faintly, just enough to be discernible. He had a hand reached out for me, palm up.

“Come with me,” he whispered. “I can see who you are. I can tell-” and his voice dropped to barely a whisper. “What you’ve eaten.”

My breath caught. The creature chuckled. “Yes,” he murmured, coaxing me on. “Come with me, child. You won’t be safe here once they bring you to the priestesses. What they will do to you – even I wouldn’t.”

I shuddered. Now that I was looking, I couldn’t take my eyes away from theirs.

The hand drew back, and I felt that they were satisfied. “Tomorrow, no- tonight. Soon. Brace yourself, child. Rest. We will be free soon.”

I looked away then, feeling caught and guilty. Would I run with them? Was this some trap? It couldn’t be – I hadn’t given them anything! And I could still change my mind, couldn’t? Besides, how could they get me out of here?

I found myself curling up on myself, my head between my knees. As if following orders, I fell asleep fitfully.

I dreamed of Lage. I dreamed of Mother, of Father, of Kayla and her final bottle smash. It was terrible.

I woke screaming, to find the air silent and cold. There was a crispness to the air that smelt of the outside.

I looked around, wondering where I was. For a moment I was completely lost, baffled, and it wasn’t helped by what I saw.

To my right, where the creature’s cell was, a silver light was glowing. It expanded, radiating out with a breath of coolness and frost out into the cells. Then it swept back in, shrinking somewhat. It was someone’s breath, I realized. The creature’s breath, their form hidden as a shadow behind this glowing frost.

I slunk backwards, looking around for some sense of normalcy. No one was coming. No one seemed to even notice that something strange was happening.

For what felt like an eternity, I sat there with my arms around my knees. I reached out within myself, pleading with the world for help, for something.

With my head burrowed between my knees, I was jolted from my thoughts by the creature shouting. “Guard! Guard! Come quick! The girl is dead!”

I jolted up, lifting my head and looking around. The creature was standing by the bars, their glowing breath now gone. There was the sound of cursing and feet running. The guard rushed into view, lamp in hand and keys in the other.

I just sat there, frozen. Wondering what was happening, even as it unfolded before me.

It was a trap. The guard rushed up against the bars of my cell, and the creature reached out through his and yanked the guard close. In one yelp and a snap, the guard was over. The keys were now jangling in dark hands, the lamp smashing to the floor.

The silence that followed was punctuated only by the hammering of my heart in my ears. Then, the door grating open. The flames licked at the oil on the floor, lighting up the creature as he stepped out. He was a ghastly shape, tall and strange as he stepped over the fire to unlock my door.

“Come,” he said sweetly. Then he turned and walked away.

I had a choice. I could sit in this cell, or move. I moved. I didn’t know what the princesses had in store for me, but neither did I know what this creature wanted. At least with the creature, I could hopefully still run away. Find my way back to Lage, then go home. But what home was there to go back to?

I shoved that question aside as I stepped over the smoldering flames and beside the dead guard. I was going home. That was that.

As I made my way down the corridor, the creature was unlocking some doors, ignoring others. Then, as if to spite everyone, he tossed the keys into the far corner of an already locked cell that held only a skeleton.

Prisoners were rushing out, pouring and stumbling towards the stairs that led away and up. The creature turned to me. He flashed a smile of immaculate white teeth.

“Here,” he drew a cloak from the guards’ chair. “Put this on.”

Remembering the biting cold of outdoors, I did, wrapping it clumsily around my shoulders. He nodded, and we turned and ran after the vanishing prisoners.

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.”