Lage’s Game: Chapter Twelve, Part One

I caught Rebella by surprise. There was a smear of blood on the Grandmother’s lips, but it was tiny. Rebella spun with a yell, but I had the dagger.

I stabbed blindly – but she caught my arm.

And we were stuck. Me bearing down on her with all my strength, her sitting, half falling backwards, bracing up against me and the dagger. The dagger which was so, so, close to her eye that it was maddening.

Fury pumped through me. I willed this with all my might. To murder her.

“Guards!” Rebella yelled as her hands slipped ever so slightly. The tip of the dagger grazed her cheek, cutting a slim line.

It was not enough! I wanted her dead!

The door behind us burst open. Hands seized me and I was flung back, the dagger wrenched from my hand.

“What on earth are you doing?” yelled a voice. As my mind spun, I came to on the floor at the foot of a guard. Before me was the tall figure of the other princess, who was holding Rebella by a blood-spattered wrist. “What are you doing?” she screamed.

Rebella wrenched free. “What needs to be done!” and she turned to her grandmother.

The moment seemed to stand still. Rebella gasped. Her dagger clattered to the floor, splattering my blood across the planks.

“No!” gasped Rebella, shaking the elderly woman, who now bore a slight smile on her face. But the woman was limp. “No!” Rebella screamed, shaking her some more. Desperately, she smeared blood on the grandmother’s lips – only to be wrenched back by the sister.

“Don’t do that! You can’t!”

“I can and I will!” screamed Rebella, wrestling free from her sister. “I don’t care! She can’t die! We need her!”

“Stop being so selfish!” screamed the sister, grabbing at Rebella again. “It’s not about you! Let her rest!”

“No!” Rebella screamed, stamping a foot. “We need her! I don’t care if it curses us all! We need her!”

I staggered to my feet, determined to try again. The sister turned, our eyes meeting. Her eyes swept me up and down – and she nodded to herself. “Guards! Take this one to the healing ward! And this one-” she gestured to Rebella. “To her room! And keep her in there!”

“No!” Rebella yelled, but the sister yanked her forward and away from the Grandmother. A squabble began, but the guards quickly seized Rebella. With a slam Rebella bodily shoved one aside, punched the other in the visor, and stamped past me out of the room.

“See to it that she stays in her room!” called out the sister at the guards who rushed after Rebella.

I was left in the custody of one guard. They picked me up in their arms, limp and head spinning. The last thing I remembered was watching the ceiling twirl above me – and then nothing.

Time passed in lurches. I saw darkness, then I was beside Lage, watching him fish in the ice.

“You’re here?” he asked. “So soon?”

Then, the world lurched. Ekundayo was beside me, humming as he drummed happily with a stick on a rock. “Child, child,” he said, shaking his head with that strange grin.

Then, I spun downwards.

With a gasp, I sat up. My chest was seizing with pain. Two pairs of arms belonging to robed people were stretched above me. They were chanting incoherently. A sense of panic was crashing over me. I had to get out of here. They were going to pullt he card out of me!

I lurched to the side, falling clean off the bed and before a pair of feet. I grabbed onto a hand and helped myself up – and was faced with a sneering Rebella.

“Well,” she said.

Hatred swelled in me- but I was pushed backwards onto the bed.

“You should sit,” said Rebella nastily.

I breathed, heart hammering in my chest. Rebella. How I hated her. The monks, healers, whatever they were, lowered their arms. A sense of static electricity left the air, and my panic left me. Cool calm came over me. I focused on Rebella, wonderign how I could kill her.

But Rebella wasn’t herself. She was fidgeting, looking from me to the door beyond the curtains that framed the bed. “They won’t think of coming here,” she murmured. Then, to the healers, she snapped “Get out!”

The healers bowed, scraped their feet back, and shuffled away without another word. Rebella followed them. Once the door was shut, she latched it shut. Then she pressed her back to the door nad glared at me.

It dawned on me then that this wasn’t an infirmary. The room was small from what I could see, but – it was a personal room.

Rebella marched towards me. “Who are you? Why do they want you? Hmh?”

She was now at my side, drawing out a dagger from her belt with a hiss of metal. She held it between us, eyes flashing.

“They?” I asked. “They’re here?” Could there be more than one ‘they’?

“They want you,” said Rebella angrily. “They are saying they will kill the new Queen if we do not hand you over.”

Her hand was trembling. Her eyes flicked over me like a spider darting all over.

“Who are they?” I asked, feeling a sense of control. A sense I could finally get some answers.

“They?” she hissed. “You know them! They are the Associates. They rule your world, or so they say.”

I made a face. “They do not,” or so I hoped.

“Why do they want you?” she hissed, prodding the dagger at me. But I knew she wouldn’t hurt me this time. She was too uneasy. Or maybe that was the danger.

“Where am I?” I asked, drawing back the curtains from the other side of the bed. My fingers barely grazed the fabric before my shoulder was seized by Rebella. She shook me, making sharp daggers of pain burst in my chest.

“What do they want?” she hissed rabidly. “You- who are you?”

She had dropped the dagger in my lap. In a flash I knew I could take it and slash her throat- but somehow I chose not to. I grabbed her wrists and pried them off me.

“I am no one!” I answered coolly, shoving her back so I could stand. “I-”

“They wouldn’t threaten my sister for just anyone!” and the dagger was back between us. Then, with a flick, she slid it back into her belt. “Tell me – or I will bring you to them!”

That stilled my heart. That meant … “If I tell you?” I asked cautiously.

“I will keep you safe from them,” she said too swiftly. Nodding to herself,she held out her palm. “Word of honor.”

There was a catch. Obviously. But I didn’t want to be turned over to ‘them’, did I?

I looked around the room, hoping for some escape. I gripped at my robe, a strange flimsy white thing. I was barefoot, too. I wouldn’t get far.

“Five,” declared Rebella. “Four,”

I scowled at her. What a stinker she was.

“Three,” she said, challenging me.

“I ate Lage’s card,” I snapped.

Her jaw fell. A choking sound came out of her throat – then she turned to disbelief and started laughing. “You did what now?” But then she tipped her head back and laughed.

Humiliation burned over me, but she seemed relieved when she was done with her laughter.

“You idiot,” she said happily. Then she clapped a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “You are stupid, you know that?”

I fueled all my anger at her through my eyes, choking up on words. How I wanted to tell her that I hated her right then. Maybe I should try and kill her again.

“Don’t worry,” she clapped my shoulder. “I will keep you safe. Now,” she pressed a finger to her lips and looked me up and down. A smirk drew itself on her lips. She looked smug. “We need to find you some clothes. Come.” She snapped her fingers at me and motioned me to follow her.

We drew to a large chest, from which she drew out some old clothes. They were worn through in their colors, but still solid looking. Several shirts were held up to me until she found one that she found suitable. From there she gave me a tunic to put over, a sort of bra to wear under, and pants. Boots – she gave me some soft slipper-like things in leather.

“They will have to do,” she muttered, cluckign her teeth. Then, she gave me a belt. It was set with a snake biting its tail worked into the metal ring. She set a dagger on it and set it about my waist. “Here,” she said. Then, stepping back, she looked me over. “Good,” she declared.

I had a sinking feeling that something was wrong. Something about the satisfied gleam in her eyes. I felt like a pig being dressed for slaughter.

She took a gray cloak trimmed in white fur from the chest. It was old as well, but fitted me a little largely. It occurred to me that I must look like a younger version of her – was I to be some decoy?

“Now,” she took a white globe from down her shirt, fishing it out with some difficulty. “Hide this in your shirt. Don’t eat it,” she added with a chuckle.

It was cold like ice, so much so that I almost dropped it. It was marble perhaps, smooth white with shoots of glimmering gray woven through it.

“When you are ready to escape, call out the name-”


“Of course, I’m going to hand you over to them. Then you will escape.”

There it was. The betrayal. “But you had promised-”

She held up a finger between us. “I can’t hide you. If I do, they will sack the city. No, I will hand you over. You have my dagger, and my spirit-weapon.” she closed my fingers over the white ball. “Call their name when you are ready to kill them, and they will appear and fight with you.”

“Kill them?” I gawked. I’d never killed before!

“You must strike the killing blow,” she said softly, “and don’t leave it to the spirit to do.” Then, sensing my dismay, she added “You must kill them. If you don’t, they will follow you back to the city. Killing them will buy us time. Take it,” she pushed my hand to my chest. “Kill them. Then come back to me.”

On remote, I put the ball down my shirt. Then, numb, I felt myself turning to ice. This couldn’t be. It was too awful to be true.

But it was. Rebella whispered a name to me, then nodded. “Come back to me, and I will take care of you,” she announced.

Like hell I would.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Six Part Two

There was the sounds of several pairs of feet entering the house. Kayla and I looked to the stairwell, and then when we looked again the green man was gone.

Kayla, beer bottle in hand, stepped out into the hallway. She was shaking all over and white like a sheet. As the footsteps approached, she turned on the hallway light.

In the stairwell, several men in suits and ski masks stared up at us, like deers in headlights. Dangerous deer. One minute, they were shocked, the next they were all anger and venom.

“Well, this changes things,” said the first man, who had one eye patched up.

Kayla took a deep breath. She lifted her beer bottle. It looked piddly and pointless. In a flicker I realized my keys were about the same, but I felt so much more than Kayla right then. I felt ready to burst out of my body. I was brimming full of power.

Stretching out my arms, I rolled my head and shifted my grip on the keys. Here I come-

“What’s this about? Is it money?” asked Kayla. “I can pay you to go away.”

The men stopped. They looked at each other.

“Do you want a drink?” asked Kayla bitterly. “Why don’t we talk?”

“Lady, you don’t have enough money to understand what’s at stake here,” said the patched up gangman.

“I understand kidnapping,” said Kayla angrily. “It’s usually about money, isn’t it?”

The men hesitated. Kayla continued, voice trembling. “You can go find another kid, how about that? Go pick on someone else.”

That made them shake their heads. “It’s got to be her,” said the patched up goon, taking a resolute step forward. “So move aside, woman.”

Kayla braced herself, beer bottle pointed forward. “You stinky shit-”

“Don’t touch her,” said a man’s voice behind me. I spun and the man in the medieval cloak was there, appeared and fresh out of thin air. He was directly behind me and Kayla, but he reached and placed a hand on my shoulder. “She’s just a child,” he said solemnly, staring down the kidnappers.

“Who the fuck are you?” demanded the one-eyed jerk.

“Who are you? And what claim do you have to her?” asked the man in green.

“Oh, feeling smart, are we?” snarled the talkative goon. But he wasn’t advancing.

“You know who I am,” said the man behind me. “Now tell me who you are.”

There was a pause. “They’re here to kidnap her!” snapped Kayla shrilly, pointing at the kidnappers. “Her dad got in some mess – and now they want her to pay for it!”

“She ate the card!” spat the one eyed goon. “She will -” and he stopped himself, chowing down on his anger.

“Yes, she ate the card,” said the man behind me, softly.

Kayla was looking from one man to the other. I felt anger boiling in me. “What card? A credit card?”

“No,” shouted the angry kidnapper just as the green-cloaked man said it too, softly. The kidnapper seemed to have made his mind up. He drew a knife from his belt. “Step aside!”

I bolted forward.

The goon stepped back in shock. I darted past him, slashing my keys on the side of his stomach. There was a digging feeling, and I was whizzing past them, down the stairs.

I was yanked to a stop, my shoulders grabbed from behind. I spun, slashing with my keys at anything and everything.

There was a smash of a beer bottle crashing into the head of the man who was holding me. He stumbled back, tumbling down the rest of the stairs. I bolted again, down the stairs and darting across the living room.

I made it to the kitchen, where I yanked a knife out of a fancy set on the counter. It was a steak knife. I spun, bracing myself.

There was the sounds of swearing, and the kidnappers tramped across the living room. I was trapped in the kitchen as they filled the entryway, the one with the patch in front.

“Don’t touch her!” intoned a voice from behind, along with the sound of feet marching over.

“You take the idiot, I’ll take the girl,” said the patched guy to his co-goons with a nod of the head.

“Don’t you dare-” said the medieval man as the other kidnappers turned to face him.

“Come at me!” I heard myself scream, crouching with the knife.

I was afraid. Terror and anger mixed in my veins in a dangerous cocktail. I braced as the man took one step. Another step. His blue eye was glittering with menace and vicious delight.

I stepped back and snatched another knife from the set. This one was a cleaver. Two-handed, I braced again.

The man was approaching slowly. His knife was gone. He was here to catch me, not to kill me.

The kitchen seemed silent. I heard only my blood roaring in my ears. I saw only the man stepping so slowly – then he darted forward.

One of my hands was grabbed, my right. I hacked blindly with my left as the other hand grappled at me. I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Anger was overflowing, bursting from me as I saw red.

Crack! A baseball bat smashed across the man’s head. The grip on my hand vanished and he crumbled at my feet. On the other side of him, Kayla was breathing heavily, bat in hand. Beyond, the medieval man was rushing over.

At my feet, the man stirred, blinking widely.

Finish the kill, I thought on instinct. Slit his throat and avenge yourself.

I switched the cleaver to my right and was dropping down to grab the man by the head to deal my finishing blow- but I was hefted up by the arm. The medieval man, again.

“Don’t,” he said. “You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

In a surge I knew I wouldn’t, for I hadn’t regretted any of my other kills – other kills?

I shook myself, wondering where that thought had come from. At my feet, the goon was groaning and trying to sit up. The medieval man put a foot on his chest, and his weight with it too. The goon grunted, eye bulging.

Far away, there was the sound of sirens approaching.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Five Part Two

I couldn’t maim the men. I couldn’t exact vengeance.

For some reason, that knowledge burned at me. The security didn’t know what to do when they arrived. The unconscious men had supposedly been taken into custody by the police but I doubted anything would happen. Supposedly – supposedly there was no proof.

No proof.

I was just standing there when the police arrived. They said my story didn’t make sense. Now, I was going to watch my kidnappers walk free.

I was furious with the green man for rescuing me. I’d rather be dead than alive right now. I wanted this to be over, to have exacted vengeance, even if it was in some small way.

“Please, sweetie, eat something,” said Kayla as she pushed the take out towards me. I glared at her. She offered me a miserable smile. She was on the phone with the school board and was convincing them that I didn’t need to show up for the final days of school.

“We’re leaving tomorrow,” she announced for the umpteenth time to the phone, as if to make it real. It would be real, I was sure. But then what?

I stared down at the thai noodles. I poked at a piece of tofu. Hunger evaded me. I wanted – I wanted to throw this food at the wall.

Instead I sat quietly. I pushed the food away. I crossed my arms, hugging myself. I missed my unicorn. No one had found it in the hallways, even if I asked several times for it.

“We’ll get you another one,” Kayla had promised as she had wiped her own tears away before hugging me to her chest.

Now I just wanted Kayla to be gone. I wanted her somewhere safe, away from me. I wanted everyone away from me. I was a walking danger magnet it seemed.

Rising from the kitchen table, I went to the living room. Mid-way there, I crossed the entrance hall, and there I froze. A figure was standing on the other side of the entrance door’s frosted glass. It was just a shape, but it was a tall, thick, man-shape.

My mind whirled. Uncle was at the office for the rest of the day. Wanda was upstairs.

The door knocked. The figure shrunk as the person stepped away from the door.

“What is it?” Kayla was beside me, walking to the door. To me, she asked “Is someone there?”

I nodded, mouth dry and eyes wide. Kayla drew the curtain aside from the window beside the door and peered out. “There’s no one,” she murmured. Frowning, she pulled the door open. Then her eyes looked down. “Oh!” she cried out. She fumbled the phone. “I’ll have to call you back!”

I was walking forward, trying to get a look but she shut the door. “Stay there!” she said, spinning to face me. “Don’t go out!”

But I saw it. There, perched on the door’s step, looking inwards expectantly, was my unicorn.

Kayla called the police. “The unicorn is here!” she said insistently. “The kidnappers must have brought it!” She peered again out the window. “They left it at the front door!” Then, exasperated, she exclaimed “Well, do something!

I went and sat upstairs in Wanda and Uncle’s bedroom. The police came by. I was sure they photographed the unicorn, and did all those police-y things that they showed on TV. I heard vioces speaking to Kayla, and then the door was shut.

Silence. Footsteps padded softly up the stairs. I sat up from the bed, and Kayla was in the doorway. “I’m sorry,” she said, eyes red even as she faked a smile. “They’re keeping it as evidence.”

Even my unicorn was gone. Great.

Somehow, that felt like a gaping cavern inside me – but I was numb all at the same time. Did gaping chasms have feelings, or where they just – there? I lay back down face-first on the bed.

The bed shifted. I looked up as Kayla sat beside me. She stroked my head, eyes shimmering with tears. “I’m so sorry,” she croaked, voice breaking. “I’m so sorry about everything-” and she sobbed.

Our hands gripped at each other. We held on tight.

That night, Kayla slept on the floor beside my couch. Wanda and the cousins were quiet as we slept early.

“We’re leaving first thing tomorrow morning,” Kayla announced to no one in particular as she spread out her blankets on the floor. She ruffled up her pillow, and lay down as if demanding the world comply with her.

That next morning, Kayla was looking starched and ready. Her makeup was a bit fuzzy, but otherwise she looked a bit better than usual- which was a sign that she was on edge. She wasn’t relaxed. She was stiff like a starched collar.

I woke up to her shaking me out of nightmares of police and large men. Breakfast was a shoddy affair, as Wanda and Uncle were still asleep. Kayla was determined that they would sleep, but just before we carried our bags out the door, Wanda appeared in the living room.

“Hey,” and she held out her arms to Kayla. “Take care, hon.”

Then, the hug was turned to me. I hugged Wanda back, thinking this might be the last time I ever saw her. Then, Kayla opened the door and we were off.

As per her ritual, as she announced to me, Kayla bought herself an extra large coffee and we hit the highway.

The drive was long, and I slept most of the morning away. We stopped for a hasty lunch and when we were back in the car on our way Kayla seemed more relaxed.

Hours later, I dozed off again. I slept right through suppertime, and was woken by the sound of the car crunching over gravel. That, and the sheer happiness radiating off Kayla

“Here we are!” she announced as we drew to a stop.

We were outside a small house. It looked like a cabin, a sort of suburban cutesy thing. It was difficult to see much, as the night was pitch dark. Mosquitoes flew here and there. There was a small flower patch out front, a bird bath, and solar lamps that were aglow lining the driveway.

Kayla let out a happy sigh as she swung out of the car. I stepped out of the car, but didn’t do a happy sound. Rather, I felt completely cramped. Instantly mosquitoes swarmed around me.

Kayla began chattering as we got our baggages from the trunk. “Welcome to my home!” she was saying as she closed the trunk of the car. “It’s small but it’s cozy. There’s an extra room you can have, and,”

I didn’t hear the rest. Something was sitting on the front steps, just before the front door. It was pale, small, and the shape was all too familiar.

Kayla stopped talking too as she saw it. “Is that a package?” she asked as she marched towards it ahead of me.

Of course it wasn’t. It was my unicorn.

Kayla picked it up. Her back was to me, her face shrouded in curls as she held it in her trembling hands.

“I don’t think the police kept it,” I said softly.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Three, Part Two

That night, I slept in uncle’s living room, curled around my unicorn on the couch. They said it would just be for a few days, but I heard them saying to the cousins that they might have to bunk in the same room soon. But how long was ‘soon’? How long would it take before mom was officially ‘gone’?

I could not sleep. Thoughts of mother kept me awake, but not as much as they should have. I was selfish, worried not about her because she was already gone in my mind. She would be safe now, happily with father. No, I was waiting for when ‘they’ would come for me.

I would be ready. I had the card under my pillow now, and with it, my vengeance. I would destroy exactly what they wanted. What they were willing to commit murder for. I’d burn it before them.

It was only halfway through the night that it occurred to me that I didn’t have a lighter on hand. That bothered me. Would I rip the card then? Tear it into four pieces? Somehow that was less validating. Could the card be repaired? Could it still be sold, even in pieces? I wanted it to be utterly ruined. I wanted it burned, gone beyond repair.

The moonlight was drifting in through the living room’s curtains. It illuminated the coffee table, the TV on the wall ( a large one, way too expensive. They might take it with them when they came for me.).

It was my last sight before I drifted into sleep. An empty living room. It ought to have made me feel safe, but it didn’t.

When I dreamed, I dreamed of a presence so surely, so closely, that I knew it was there. I knew it was a man. I knew he was white. I caught sight of blond hair. An outstretched hand. A voice, whispering.

When I woke, the sunlight was streaming in and the air smelled of milk and cereal, the sound of bowls rattlign could be heard. The uncles and cousins were speaking in hushed tones in the kitchen.

I rose. Still in my pajamas, I walked into the kitchen with my unicorn. They all smiled at me, pitying. I sat down in the empty chair, set my unicorn on the table beside me, and ate.

I wanted to ask them who had been there during the night, but words escaped me. On one hand I ‘knew’ that no one should have been there, but on the other hand, I was certain I had felt someone. So I was not sure what to say, or how to say it. Then, it occurred to me that they might not know about the board game. That they too, like the police, might not know or believe that ‘they’ were coming for me.

The thought struck me cold. Here I was, bringing trouble to another family. Also, I had forgotten the card in the living room. How stupid of me. What if they came in now? They would find it and take it. And probably, uncle would try and defend me and get killed as well. Maybe the cousins too.

I stared at my half-finished bowl of cereal, feeling sick. I scrubbed at the tears rolling down my face, angry. I would have to leave. I would have to find them. Bring the card to them.

But no. That was my vigilante side speaking again. How would I realistically find them? I didn’t know where to search. I only knew that they struck at night, and that their maybe leader might be in the hospital right now. Or maybe dead? No. As much as I liked to think that mother had dealt a killing blow, it was highly unlikely.

So what now? I looked up from my bowl, and uncle was discreetly walking out of the kitchen. The cousins had vanished. Their mother was sitting beside me, rubbing my back. I wiped the tears from my face. I picked up my unicorn and hugged it, angry. So angry.

I did not go to school that day, instead lying on the couch, alone. Wanda, uncle’s wife, had insisted on staying home with me, but I’d glared at her and said “No. Go.”. And so she left, frowning, off to her job.

I waited for them to come for me. The card lay before me, face down on the coffee table. I was dressed in my almost-best, jeans and a button up shirt and a vest, waiting for them. I had searched for matches or a lighter, but hadn’t found any. The closest I could think of was turning on an oven element to burn it, but that wasn’t practical. They wouldn’t let me get that far.

So I sat and waited, my unicorn in my lap. It didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t. It was only when Uncle came home from work that I realized the day had passed, and I had spent it staring at a card. It had only felt like an hour.

“Your aunt will be here this evening,” he said, trying to sound cheerful.

I didn’t like my aunt, but I supposed she was alright. She was just so – mayonnaise salad impersonated. Bland. Strange. A little fruity, if you were lucky.

The cousins arrived, loud at first then quiet when they saw me. I stared at them, realizing that somehow, their lives hadn’t changed. They were still happy, yet I was devastated. Their lives were intact, yet both my parents were gone.

I had nowhere to run to to hide and cry. No room with a door to slam. So I held my unicorn and decided not to cry.

My aunt arrived just after supper, looking wrung out and exhausted. She was wearing a tank top and jeans, her hair a curly blonde frizz. “Oh, dear!” she cried out as she saw me. She flung out her arms and crouched. I sat very still, not wanting a hug at all. I even put my unicorn on my lap.

She hesitated. Wanda cleared her throat and patted auntie on the shoulder. “It’s alright, she’s just, processing.”

Auntie looked doubly devastated. “Okay,” she said, straightening. To Wanda, she said “How is everything? I mean – I just, what happened? I can’t-”

“Here,” Wanda guided auntie (I think her name was Kayla) to the kitchen. As if on cue, probably on cue actually, Fred left his homework in the kitchen and came to turn on the TV for me.

So I sat there while the Lion King played, drowning out the sound of Kayla’s crying and Wanda’s telling her how it all happened.

I was starting to hate the Lion King too. In between dramatic music and character quips, I could hear Kayla saying “Another break-in? But why? What did they want?”

What they did want lay before me on the table, face down and inert. So stupid. So small.

Then, it occurred to me that if I hadn’t left the card out of the box, if I hadn’t taken the box to my room that night, none of this would have happened. They’d have come, taken the box, and maybe we wouldn’t have even known they were there. Maybe they’d have not even waken mom. Murder was against their usual tactics.

I had killed mom. My actions were the root of the chain of actions that had murdered her.

I sat there, very calm and cool as I thought this through. True, I could not have known. But as any lawyer knows, idiocy and ignorance is no excuse for a crime. I was at the root of it all. I had caused my mother’s death.

Had I caused Father’s too, I wondered. Had I left a door unlocked, said something about his collection to a friend too many, or done something small and seemingly insignificant that had tipped the robbers off?

No. I was not going to randomly punish myself. I was not going to wallow in self-flagellation in order to throw a pity party. I had murdered my mother, but I had not murdered Father. I had to be realistic, keep a grip on reality.

I propped my feet up beside the card, staring at that stupid printed diamond on its backing. Obviously, I was not legally to be held responsible. The law did not see the moral beginnings of things. A critical flaw, if you asked me. No, I was not afraid of people finding out, or of going to jail for this. I was morally responsible, but not legally. No one would think of blaming me, but I knew that I was to blame.

I came out of my thoughts when the TV was paused. Wanda and Kayla were standing there, eyeing me nervously.

I stared at them, waiting.

“Hey,” said Kayla. “I’m going to go see your mom. Would you like to come, sweetie?”

I shook my head.

“Are you sure?”

I nodded, wrapping my arms around my unicorn and staring back at the TV.

“Okay,” Kayla said quietly. Then she left. Wanda came to sit beside me. I wished she wouldn’t, but wishes aren’t fulfilled.

“Kayla was saying that you were going to a new school?” Wanda said gently.

I nodded, still staring at the TV screen. It was frozen, the characters mid-position. Just like I had been. Frozen.

“Do you?” Wanda was asking.

I startled, staring at her. She smiled feebly. “You’d still like to go to that new school?”

Oh. I nodded, knowing it was what mother had wanted. But I would not live that long. They were coming for me. But I might as well do the motions. It would make mom happy, wherever she was.

Wanda talked some more about how she and Kayla were going to be taking care of Mom’s affairs, but that it was mainly Kayla who was going to be doing it.

“If your mom doesn’t wake up, you could go live with her, until she does,” she offered.

My lip trembled. I gritted my jaw to stop it. I was not moving away. Mom had wanted me to go to that school, so I would. Shaking my head, I hugged my unicorn to my chest angrily. Besides, this was all until they arrived. Then, it was all over. They would kill me – probably. They murdered mom for not knowing where the card was. They would certainly kill me for destroying it before their eyes.

Wanda was asking me what I wanted to do when I noticed the darkness outside the window. It was time. They usually struck around now.

I rose to my feet, discreetly picking up the card and pocketing it. “I’m going for a walk,” I announced.

“Want some company?” Wanda asked with a smile.

“No,” I said sharply, taking my unicorn to the entry way where I put my shoes on. Then, with Wanda watching me with a frown from the couch, I left out the door.

Uncle and Wanda’s house was in a small roundabout of cozy looking houses with a green patch in the middle of it all where dogs probably peed to their hearts content. There was three benches. I took one, placing my unicorn beside me.

I knew Wanda was watching from her window, but my back was to her. Let her watch. Then there would be a witness to what they did, this time.

The moon was clear and bright, nearly round in its brightness. They would be here soon. I could feel it.

So I drew the card from my pocket, ready and waiting. I glared at the card, flipping it over so I saw the simili- ancient sculpture. Lage. Well Lage, it’s down to you and me.

I didn’t hear a car, but from the corner of my eye, I saw a man approach. Tall. Green in color.

I froze. They were here.

With a sigh, the man sat beside me. He was wrapped all in a green shape with long blond hair that swept his shoulders. And he just sat there.

I couldn’t move my eyes to see him. I was leaning forward on the bench, he was leanign back, just a fuzzy shape in the corner of my vision.


I jumped, screaming.

“Whoah!” Uncle was standing before me, hands raised. “It’s just me!”

I spun to face the man, horrified that Uncle was here to get caught in it all – but there was no one on the bench beside me. Nothing.

Heart pounding in my throat, I turned to uncle. He was saying something about too late and time to go to bed. I looked again at the empty bench. Uncle took me and walked me back to the house. I kept staring back at the bench that was so empty.

It was when the door shut behind me and I was in their house that I realized my unicorn was missing. The man had taken it.

“My Name is Chaos”; Chapter Seventeen, Part One

I waited until Bella and I were alone in her bedroom to defy her.

“You can’t do that,” I pleaded with her, conscious that I was treading delicate ground in challenging her.

“What?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder at me. She had her back to me and was busy with something on her nighttable. I laid my jacket on the bed, making sure to choose my words carefully. I didn’t want her to be angry with me.

“Challenge the sky god. It’s like challenging Lucifer,” Except worse, because the sky god was the one who won in that battle of the gods, remember? “You can’t do that. You’ll get hurt.”

Bella turned around with a smirk, placing something behind her back. Her blue eye twinkled. “Don’t worry about me Chaos,” she said sweetly. “We have something else to discuss.”

I worried at my bottom lip. “But-”

Bella gave me a scowl, and that silenced me. As my jaw shut, her good mood returned. She drew her hands out from behind her back. “Come here,” she ordered.

Jaw slightly agape, I stepped forward. For in her hands, hse had a beautiful black collar. At least, to my eyes it was beautiful. There was studs along the side, and a vial was set at the front instead of a gem. A vial of what looked like blood.

“On your knees,” she murmured as I reached before her.

Entranced, I didn’t think twice. I sunk to my knees. My eyes were riveted on the collar, then up to her face where she was smirking contently.

“You’re my best,” she crooned. “And,” she drew my hair aside with one hand. The smooth texture of the collar met the skin of my neck and goosebumps raised along my arms. I just knew that it was her blood in that little vial. “You’re mine,” she whispered as she buckled it around my neck.

My heart was doing somersaults. I was going to explode from happiness, from pure joy.

“You’re my perfect slave,” she crooned, stooping before me. In her other hand now, unwrapping from around her wrist, was a slim leash. She clipped it to a buckle beneath the vial. I couldn’t have been happier.

“I love you,” she whispered so close to my lips, but I didn’t dare reach for her, knowing perfectly well that that was her call to make.

Then, with a sharp tug at my neck that was more of a yank, she dragged me to the bed.

That night was a piece of fantasy. I was not undressed one bit, and yet I was brought to sheer ecstasy via Bella’s sweetly magical words and the works of her hands. I was tied in knots, bound and barely able to breathe around a gag that was stuffed into me. It was euphoric. Worse, I sensed something in me change as she commanded and I obeyed. Something in me shifted or gave way. It just seemed so natural to obey, so proper for my place to be at her feet that I would have licked her boots clean without second thought that night. It was blindingly satisfying. It just felt so good.

The next morning I was subdued, gleeful, and still euphoric. I woke to find Bella already awake, lying at my side with a bright smile on.

“Good morning,” she whispered. The leash was still wrapped around her hand, tethering us together. She tugged on it harshly. “Come here.”

I obeyed gleefully. Anything she wanted, anything for her. I straddled her as she patted her hips, nuzzled her neck, and kissed her carefully. Her fingers wound in my hair, pulling painfully then massaging in turns. My heart fluttered at the attention. When she lifted my chin away from hers I was giddy. Butterflies were filling me and I wanted nothing more than to be commanded.

But Bella’s mind seemed to be elsewhere as she stroked my cheeks. “Today is going to be a big day Chaos,” she whispered soberly. “I need you to be perfect today. You must do exactly what I say. Obey me without question.” She paused, a gleam in her eyes. Her usual smile flickered back to life. “Will you do that for me?”

“Of course,” I gushed, because really, anything. She could ask for anything.

Her fingers gripped my hair tightly. The leash drew taught in the other direction, holding me painfully suspended between the two. “Good,” she murmured, dragging my head back to kiss my neck. The leash loosened and her other hand caressed my side – then dug its nails into my ribs. I whimpered at the pain, relishing in it because it was from Bella.

A messenger was sent ahead, a vampire who was to bear the challenge to the Sky Lord. The lord of lords. The thought of Bella fighting him made me anxious. She did know what she was getting into, right? She must have, I said to comfort myself, because look at her. She’s smiling.

But then again, Bella always smiled.

I gnawed at my nails and told myself that certainly, even if she lost, she wouldn’t be harmed. She would … be put in jail? Probably. But I could help her escape from there if worse came.

It was afternoon on earth when we finally took the portal. It was Bella, her hench-crew of vampire sidekicks, and me. I stayed by Bella’s side.

The portal brought us straight to the arena where the fight was going to go down.

It was like the Colosseum – or rather the Colosseum was like it. It was huge, circular, with walls that rose seemingly into the sky. So maybe it was Colosseum meets tower of babel? Anyways, there was plenty of room for everyone to watch the humiliation of whoever was defeated.

The stands were filled with angels and even demons and deities of all kinds. Lucifer was standing in the middle of the arena, talking to the Sky Lord. At our appearance Lucifer waved us over.

“Dar-ling! What a surprise you’ve brought us!” cooed Lucifer, sauntering over to meet us halfway. He was glittering in black with silver stars all over and the highest heels anyone could manage. He tossed his hair dramatically over his shoulder and it slapped the approaching Sky lord in the face.

The Sky Lord was, well, awkward. You could get as much from a guy that lived off a mountain, alone, and never wanted anything to do with other deities. He stood stiff, wore ancient clothing, and wore a beard as if he was the most ancient of all (he wasn’t).

But running in from the sidelines, like goalies rushing to a fight? My mom and dad. I glanced away, but boom! They apparated over in a puff of smoke.

“Chaos!” they said together, both sounding near tears.

Bella lay a hand on my shoulder. There was a moment of silence. I looked from the Sky Lord to Lucifer to – yeah they were pissed. Back to Lucifer it was.

“Chaos is my champion,” said Bella sweetly. “He’s going to be fighting for me today.”

The words went in one ear and out the other. It was the collective gasps that alerted me to the importance of what had been said. That, and the laughter of Lucifer.

“Pre-cious!” he cheered with a flip of the hand, like he was announcing the winner of some fashion competition.

“But!” Mother looked to Father and looked ready to wring someone’s neck off their head. Someone being Bella. “You can’t! Our family has been neutral for aeons! We do not mingle in the fights of gods!”

I didn’t know what to say. She was right. But my head was buzzing, my limbs felt numb. I – I was fighting the Sky God? For Bella? Why hadn’t she told me this before?

“Chaos has already agreed,” said Bella sweetly.

“No!” shouted Mother. “Chaos?!”

“It’s alright,” I said, suddenly coming to terms with everything all at once. This must have been what Bella had been talking about when she said to obey her today. And I would. I wouldn’t go back on my word, especially not to humiliate her publicly. So I squared my shoulders and glared the Sky Lord down. “I’m doing this.”

Bella squeezed my shoulder tightly, painfully so, then patted me. “See?” she said. There was a note of gloating there, of pride. It made me smile. She was proud of me!

“Well,” Lucifer clapped his hands. “Good luck!” Then he turned to the Sky Lord. “To both, of course.”

The Sky Lord scowled at his age-old enemy, knowing full well that Lucifer wanted nothing more than to see him beaten into the dust.

Mother groaned. Father was shaking his head. The Sky Lord turned to me. “You and I are going to have a serious talk after this,” he said most patronizingly.

I sneered. Bella patted me on the shoulder. “I’ll take your jacket,” she murmured.

I gave her my checkered jacket then walked past my parents to the center of the stadium. I knew the rules for duels, and had even watched a few. There were pitifully little rules, anything was allowed, and the main thing was that you weren’t exactly supposed to kill each other. But humiliation? A-okay. It was even expected, along with dramatics. A deity was supposed to show off their best moves and impress everyone.

So it really was too bad that the Sky Lord had avoided these duels most famously since his defeat by Kemosh. But that was, literally, ancient history. You’d suppose he’d have upgraded his moves since then.

“You’re making a grave mistake, kid,” the Sky Lord said as he stepped up before me, staff in hand. I scowled at him.

Did I really expect to win?I wasn’t sure. In my mind, I was half-hoping that Bella had some sort of plan to intervene and help me. Was the necklace going to give me extra powers?

“And now!” a ringmaster was bellowing for all to hear, voice magically amplified. “Let the fight begin!”