Dice/Hollow 1: Loaded Dice Make a Hollow Victory Part 6
Loaded Dice Make a Hollow Victory
So this is where my luck leads me?
At the edge of her consciousness, something stirred. She did not recall where she was, or how she got there, only that she felt… hot. Hot, all over. Her groin was on fire, and her nipples… but she could touch nothing. She loosed a moan of discomfort and despair as the feeling began to take hold, yet she could take no action to relieve it. Nothing but agony as the feeling of need continued to burn and burn and burn…
Finally, beyond the need, she heard noise. “How much longer before your refuel arrives?” a voice she trusted asked.
“A couple more hours… so you’ve got a little more time. You’re certain you plan to leave?” an unknown but friendly sounding voice replied. “I’d be glad to help however I can. Legal trouble, lawyers, whatever. We owe you,” it insisted.
She heard no response, and her eyes would not open as instructed. She moaned and writhed as she continued to be unable to satisfy the overwhelming sensation suffusing her physical being.
“I’m more worried about her,” the voice finally spoke. “She… you saw the video and the news reports, right? Auceps pulled them up for all of us. Will she be safe? Can you really protect her when she’s got warrants out for her arrest like this?”
“I will do everything I legally can, and if that doesn’t work…”
“I believe you, but… there’s another problem. The serpent was fixated on her, did you notice? Way more than it should have been for something serving a guy who wanted her alive. There was another servant, something called Zelos. It looked like a satyr, it went after us at the beginning of tonight. It said it smelled her, said she was delicious… and there were these summoned things, they completely ignored me, too. The only thing they wanted was her. I think she’s got a scent that makes her smell delicious or tasty or something to the things she eats. I’m not quite sure though, but if she does…”
“She’s a danger to herself and everyone around her,” the other voice supplied.
“We’ll protect her anyways,” a growling voice spoke up, one she vaguely recalled somewhere buried in memories she ached too much to hunt for. “I will not let them have her, whether the monsters are the MCO or anything else. I promise you, Dice.”
The one she trusted let out a very loud sigh. Dice, that was Dice. “Thank you, Lionheart, Princeps, I… I should get moving. I think she might be waking up, it feels like she’s finally experiencing something besides lust… I don’t want her to have to say goodbye… I… I kept my word. I… need to get away. It’s… I can barely keep myself in control. I don’t want to have to be handcuffed anymore...”
She felt a hand touch her own for a brief moment. “Hollow, stay safe. I’m leaving… I… don’t want to feel the pain of you saying goodbye. I’m sorry, but I just… can’t. This insane lust is bad enough to leave with, but I…” he stopped talking, and his hand left hers.
All of the voices vanished, moving out of range of her hearing, or beyond a barrier. She felt herself begin to cry when they did, even as the heat still wracked her and she could do nothing to satisfy it. Dice was leaving her… leaving and she was not safe. Safe for others. The monsters would come for her. She knew it was true. She remembered it now, being hungry. She remembered knowing that her scent would bring her food.
“I do not want you to go…” she called out, but she knew there was noone to hear her.
When Princeps grabbed Hollow, Dice started running for all he was worth. The dropship took off, flying with all speed away. As he’d hoped, it was faster than the serpent that took flight after it in response. The forest pursued the serpent, but it was the slowest of them all, except Dice, but he just needed to run in a direction that didn’t go towards the dropship.
As soon as both he and the dropship were clear of the blast zone, he kept running, knowing this was going to be something he wouldn’t relish seeing. A plume of smoke signaled a missile launch as Keggers fired off his singularity bomb at the serpent corpse. Dice didn’t watch it hit, he didn’t watch as the massive singularity this time succeeded in eating its target, reducing it to something smaller than a mustard seed and making it vanish. Then it was just a matter of letting the dropship retrieve him and Lionheart. The battle was over.
The fight had left the dropship essentially out of fuel, not even enough to reach base in KC. That meant a wait of many hours as a fuel truck was filled and sent out to them. The three rescued girls were huddled in a circle outside the ship, being watched over and entertained by Kegger and Auceps. That left Dice alone in the ship’s main area with three unconscious people and Princeps… who turned out to be some wealthy guy not much older than Dice.
He was a nice enough fellow, Dice supposed, but Dice was focused on Hollow. She… she was overcome with a lust of insane strength. It was like all her hunger had been replaced by it, and he didn’t understand it. He could barely stay close to her, it was so strong. It threatened to overcome his own restraints.
“Princeps… see if Keggers has any devisor handcuffs I can’t pick with my TK, would you?” he asked, staring at the dropship from over a hundred meters away. That put Hollow outside his range, and the emotions of gratitude and hope and thanks and joy from both the girls and heroes… those were emotions he was much happier to coast on, but coasting wasn’t what he truly wanted to do. He felt like the only right thing to do was stay at her side. Someone she trusted needed to, didn’t they?
“What in Pluto could you need that for?” Princeps asked, leaning against his power armor frame. His emotional state was fairly neutral compared to the others, but overall it was positive. He didn’t seem nearly as shocked, surprised, or curious as Dice thought he sounded.
“So that if I lose control of myself near her, I won’t be able to reach her or myself…” Dice stated. “I… my empathy isn’t something I can switch off or shield well. If I step a few feet closer, I’ll be able to feel her overpowering lust and… but I’m wrong to stay out here. I…”
Princeps nodded and walked off towards Keggers. He exchanged a few words then pointed at Dice; Keggers pulled something out of a pocket and handed it to him. Princeps walked back to him, and held up a set of cuffs. “Come on,” he said, indicating the transport. “I’ll walk you in,” he offered. Princeps had a very neutral expression on his face, and it seemed to match his muted emotions.
“Thank you,” Dice replied with a smile. He followed the slightly older man into the dropship, fighting to hold himself against what he felt coming off Hollow. For a brief moment, he faltered at the sight of her. She was beautiful, and young. Her horns glistened in the overhead lights. She was thin, and her small chest was visible due to her lack of a bra… her ere-
Dice slapped himself, stunning and overwhelming his empathy with a sharp jolt of pain. The breathing room let him steel his will as he focused on the girl, not the sexual object his sense of lust demanded he do something with. “Princeps, cuff me now,” he ordered, “here, near the door.” Princeps had stepped towards Hollow, towards Khōkhalā, who was writhing and moaning in pain.
The hero complied quickly at Dice’s order, glancing from the grimacing face with a handprint to the bound girl. Her arms and legs were all bound carefully with restraints Keggers and Auceps had pulled from somewhere. They gave her room to move, but left her stretched out and unable to touch herself. Her body ached to relieve its lust, but out of concern that she might hurt herself, they had left her no recourse to do so.
Dice sagged against the wall once the cuff was in place. He leaned against it, watching, battling the feeling flowing off the girl… his friend. She seemed so small and helpless, yet she had stood up to a pair of massive monstrosities and fought well. She was far from helpless. Far from it, yet he somehow felt like she was still in terrible danger, like she still needed his help, even though she didn’t.
“I’m leaving, you know that right?” He asked Princeps, who hadn’t left, but simply sat down and watched, like a chaperone. Dice felt grateful for the effort, but someone with stronger emotions would have been better… more intensity to focus on and override the lust. This close, those outside seemed a distant echo by comparison.
“You’ve got warrants out for your arrest, and you attract monsters or something. So for everyone’s safety, you can’t stay,” Princeps replied. “That about sum it up?” the man questioned him. Dice nodded.
“How much longer before your refuel arrives?” he asked Princeps. Hollow felt a tiny bit different. The lust overpowered everything, but he thought there was still something there. It warmed him a little. She was fighting back.
“A couple more hours… so you’ve got a little more time. You’re certain you plan to leave?” Princeps replied. “I’d be glad to help however I can. Legal trouble, lawyers, whatever. We owe you,” He insisted. Dice knew it was true. If he asked, the rich man would respond with all the resources he could offer. Dice wasn’t used to dealing with the wealthy. Still, knowing that the man believed every word told him a few things. His father’s belief that not all those with money were corrupt might have a ring of truth to it. Or perhaps they were just blind to their own corruption, and thought themselves good men? He didn’t want to believe that of Princeps.
Hollow moaned and writhed beside him. She wasn’t in pain, exactly, but he doubted it made much difference. She should be safe… but what if she wasn’t? He considered all he had seen, all he had heard...
“I’m more worried about her,” the he finally spoke. He looked at her body and he wanted to cry. He let himself, to take the edge off the lust he was still being bombarded with.. “She… you saw the video and the news reports, right? Auceps pulled them up for all of us. Will she be safe? Can you really protect her when she’s got warrants out for her arrest like this?”
“I will do everything I legally can, and if that doesn’t work…”
“I believe you, but… there’s another problem. The serpent was fixated on her, did you notice? Way more than it should have been for something serving a guy who wanted her alive. There was another servant, something called Zelos. It looked like a satyr, it went after us at the beginning of tonight. It said it smelled her, said she was delicious… and there were these summoned things, they completely ignored me to. The only thing they wanted was her. I think she’s got a scent that makes her smell delicious or tasty or something to the things she eats. I’m not quite sure, if she does…”
“She’s a danger to herself and everyone around her,” Princeps supplied. Dice hadn’t shut the door behind himself, but he also hadn’t paid attention to it. He’d been too focused on Hollow and Princeps to notice the cloud of warm emotions approaching until they joined the conversation.
“We’ll protect her anyways,” Lionheart’s growing voice spoke up. “I will not let them have her, whether the monsters are the MCO or anything else. I promise you, Dice.” Dice could feel the determination and sincerity dripping from every word, the gratitude. Lionheart was more man than most men Dice felt like he’d had the displeasure of meeting recently. He was well named...
He loosed a sigh. It was still hard to think like this. He didn’t… he didn’t want to say goodbye… or feel her saying goodbye. “Thank you, Lionheart, Princeps, I… I should get moving. I think she might be waking up, it feels like she’s finally experiencing something besides lust… I don’t want her to have to say goodbye… I… I kept my word. I… need to get away. It’s… I can barely keep myself in control. I don’t want to have to be handcuffed anymore...”
Princeps stepped up, and undid the cuff. Carefully, with everyone’s eyes on him, Dice waded through the emotions pouring off Khōkhalā Zinda, and set his hand on her own. “Hollow, stay safe. I’m leaving… I… don’t want to feel the pain of you saying goodbye. I’m sorry, but I just… can’t. This insane lust is bad enough to leave with, but I…” he stopped talking, and his hand left hers.
He turned away, and walked outside and did not stop until he could no longer feel her in his head. At least, that was his plan. When he reached where he had stood before, he stopped in shock. He could still feel her. Not brightly, not overwhelming like when she was close, but she was still there. He could feel which direction she was, and a vague sense that she lived, but nothing else. He turned and stared in shock at the ship, at her…
“Dice? Dice, is something wrong?” Lionheart asked, concern filling voice and flowing off him like water.
“I…” he shook his head to clear it, and stared again at the dropship. “I can still feel her, just barely. I… I shouldn’t be able to feel her at this range, but I can still feel her…” he uttered. The two men looking at him exchanged surprised glances.
“I… um… I definitely need to go, before she wakes up. I can’t stand the thought of what it’ll feel like, for her to let me go…” he repeated for the third time.
Princeps nodded, and reached into his pocket and pulled something out. Lionheart held up a pack. “Take this, please, and that,” Princeps stated.
Dice eyed both offered objects appraisingly. He sensed nothing but sincere gratitude regarding the objects, a hope… “What are they?”
“This has some supplies, rations, a pair of those handcuffs and instructions to using them, a few other little tricks I like to carry, a survival knife and a combat knife, blankets and a tent. Weights in at about fifty pounds. I think you could use it,” Lionheart explained. Dice’s TK picked up the pack as he looked towards the other object. It was a card, it looked like a credit card.
“This is a cash card. It’s good at most ATMs to convert to cash or pay for whatever ya need. Good up to $100,000,” Princeps explained.
Dice stared at the card in shock, then switched his gaze to Princeps. He didn’t sense any humor in the man about it. “That’s… damn, rich people really do live in a different world… My father didn’t make that much in a year and you’re just fucking handing it to me?” he asked, staring at Princeps.
“It’s the least of what I owe you for what you managed last night. I know it… probably reminds you of a lot of the problems in this country, but I can at least help a friend, can’t I?” Princeps asked honestly. “There’s a phone in the bag. It’s a satellite phone with the number for the Knights, as well as my personal cell and Lionheart and Kegger and Auceps. They all agreed. If you need anything, call us. We’ll do whatever we can to help. We can’t make you accept our help, but would you at least let us make the offer?” he asked.
Dice looked at both Princeps, only a year or two his senior, and Lionheart, a veteran hero of over ten years experience. He wasn’t sure why both men trusted him so much, but he knew they did. He wasn’t used to dealing with such people anymore. The cops didn’t trust him. Random people on the street didn’t trust him either, or they ignored him. He was a one armed black kid. Even if he’d been willing to abandon his coat with all the convenient pockets, he’d still be without an arm. He’d still be a tall black kid, anywhere he went. He’d still look ragged and unkempt and in need of a shower, probably.
“Thank you,” he found himself saying, reaching out and actually taking the card with his real hand, instead of his TK like usual. He held it reverently and with surprise, before stashing it in his wallet. “I’ll… well, I have no idea what I would even do with that much money…”
“You can’t run forever… can you? Call us if you ever run out of room to run,” Princeps offered. Dice nodded.
“I’ll… well, thank you, and goodbye,” he concluded, and turned his back upon them to make for the road and return to his wandering.
He kept walking until all the emotions of the people he had fought beside or rescued had vanished… but she was still in the back of his mind. Not emotions, just a presence, but it was enough. She was still there. He didn’t know what to make of it, but he took a steadying breath and walked onward.
FBI Agent Holder surveyed the wreckage of the building that had previously been known as the Missouri Academy. There high school aged students had taken classes at Northwest Missouri State University for both high school and college credit.
Now it was pure rubble, though surprisingly, South residence hall, directly next door, had suffered no damage. Police and a large number of MCO agents were on scene, but the ones who really dominated were the National Guard. They were everywhere, at the order of the Governor, though they’d arrived too late to have any part of the battles that had occurred here. Instead, they’d provided relief, medical aid, and all sorts of other assistance. Counselors were being flown in to see to survivors…
Nearby, in a neat double row, twenty five bodies lay. Eight were students, twelve were rescue workers, and reports said the Kansas City Knights, who had vanished from here and reappeared south of the state capital, had lost one of their members. They had also apparently recovered several kidnapping victims from the supervillain.
Five bodies were so mangled they weren’t entirely positive if they were students or rescue workers yet. It would take the coroner time to identify them.
“There are at least five students unaccounted for, and at least three rescue workers. The missing students include Kenzie Baclava and Khōkhalā Zinda, both of them roommates. Also missing are Benjamin Harris, Silvia Fairow, and Brianna Vespers. George Margus, Henry Smith, and Devine Prentice were all part of the efforts to dig the trapped students free when the supervillain hit the rubble with a fireball and burned them to death. The fire damage combined with the gunfire used to put down the, ah, animated corpses-”
Holder held up a hand to stop the officer reading off a report. “Call them Zombies, son. It’s the truth, or good enough.”
“Right, the zombies. Well, with both the burn damage and the bullets and explosives, it’s very hard to identify the last four bodies. We’re trying to check the names against the five women recovered by the Kansas City Knights, but one of them is unconscious at the moment. Another is the heroine Scintillation, and the other three whose names they have do not correspond to any of the women missing,” he explained.
“What information do we have on the missing paranormal interloper, Dice?” Holder asked the man.
“Not much. We can confirm only two sightings of him. He was unconscious during the fight that killed three MCO agents, and he either kidnapped a student or helped some kind of paranormal entity escape the original battle after the professor was knocked clear and the… smoke monster, was killed or whatever happened to it. If you want an account of the incident with the MCO, you’ll have to speak to ‘Special Investigator Wilson,’” the officer said, adding a note of disdain to his voice.
“Ryan and the local boys knew where the line was, and didn’t push it. They weren’t rabid mutant haters either. They were there to deal with the fact this college is generally considered “mutant friendly” so we have a small portion of openly mutant students, mostly cases where the kids couldn’t really hide their mutation. Total opposite of the elitists in Springfield. Wilson…” he didn’t say it, because he didn’t want to accidentally be the guy on record saying it, or so Holder guessed.
Wilson’s opinion of mutants didn’t particularly interest Holder. Only Dice and the sightings of monsters mattered. “Thanks for your help. I think I should have a word with Agent Wilson,” Holder said, shaking the hand of the officer, a young guy by the name of Jameson, before he walked away.
Wilson was responsible for convincing the police to rapidly open fire at the zombies. As a result, only injuries, but no deaths, had resulted, and so far as they could tell, no one had been infected with anything magical or necrotic. Basically, they weren’t looking at a zombie plague… probably. Holder had ordered the bite victims quarantined, just in case. The FBI Office of Special Bounties was an unusual position. They had shared jurisdiction with the DPA, and outright trumped it, in a very specific number of cases of paranormal phenomenon. Most of those circumstances were connected to dealing with things the public didn’t need to know about, because they could do nothing about them. The monsters that really did go bump in the night.
Of course, Holder considered with a twisted grin of self-mockery, in reality they farmed all the work out to the DPA or organizations like the Nightwolves up in New York. The simple fact was, most of Special Bounties was a shell, a joke. They paid out great big cash bounties to private individuals to “bump back.” The reasoning had made sense in the early days, back when both the FBI and especially Special Bounties, had been new. The FBI had no idea how to deal with these things, and the people who did were not the sort to work with the government very willingly… but they still fought the monsters anyways. So a special piece of the budget was created to provide big payouts to people who would deal with the bounties, to encourage them to cooperate with the FBI in the hopes of stealing their secrets so the government could eventually solve the problem themselves.
That was the plan. Was, because the people who did this work were very good at keeping their secrets, especially from an organization as distrusted as the FBI. However, Special Bounties was still there, paying out bounties that hadn’t been updated in nearly sixty years. They were a joke, but somebody had to be involved.
Nowadays, their main purpose was still investigative. They investigated incidents, scenes, and people involved in things related to possible bounty payouts, to ensure bounties would be paid to people who actually earned them, or point organizations like the Nightwolves at appropriate targets. Every blue moon or so, they got to do something more direct, like arrest one of the assholes playing around with the things they posted bounties on, instead of hunting them.
That had a lot to do with why Holder was here, and a lot to do with why he needed to speak to MCO Special Investigator Agent Wilson. The man stood near the wreckage of the Academy looking at it like he would expect a commanding general to survey a battlefield of pyrrhic victory. He had that much arrogance. He’d also kept a lot of people alive last night with his actions and response times.
“Excuse me, but I have some questions for you,” Holder said, stepping up and flipping out his badge. “Special Agent Holder, FBI Special Bounties Office. You are Special Investigator Wilson, MCO?” he asked, keeping his voice strictly professional.
“I am,” Wilson replied, most of the arrogance seeming to vanish from his demeanor as he turned to face Holder. He held out his hand amicably, and Holder shook it professionally. “How can I assist the FBI?” he asked.
“Just need answers to questions nobody else knows enough to ask yet,” Holder stated. Wilson raised his eyebrow. “I’m looking for information on something of great interest to the Bureau. I’m told you were the only other surviving witness to the deaths of your men?”
“Yes, I was, and what I saw is mostly recorded in camera footage I’ve already provided to the police, unedited,” Wilson replied, a little defensively.
Holder nodded, unfazed. “I understand. I’ve seen the footage, as well as the excellent news footage of the end of the original battle with the smoke creature. There are many unclear elements, but something I recognized from other reports that have crossed my desk were a series of translucent purple barriers,” he explained patiently.
Wilson looked up, eyes widening in surprise, then nodded. “Ah, those.”
“According to the police officers I’ve already spoken to, you immediately recognized those barriers as belonging to a wanted fugitive paranormal named Dice. The FBI reached the same conclusion, which is the real reason they sent me out here. It seems the FBI and the MCO may have been after the same prey,” he explained quietly. “I need whatever you can tell me, but I’m willing to share what we know as well,” he added.
Wilson nodded. “Of course, the Bureau will expect me to share first?” he asked.
Holder loosed his first careful smile. “Well, seeing as we have official jurisdiction…” Holder trailed off. He was offering to be nice, but he could see the MCO booted off this business and demand that information another way. It would take longer and he’d get less accurate intel… but he could. The MCO would either get nothing, or info even less useful than what they’d likely give the Bureau. The Bureau was infamous for loathing the MCO, it was rare they were willing to play nice.
There was no possible way, Holder surmised, that Wilson didn’t know that. He was being offered a hell of a deal, he just had to talk first. “Alright, done. Where should I start?”
“I want what the MCO knows about today, as well as what you know about Dice’s origins,” he explained. “We’ve never seen the MCO’s full report on that incident, just the incomplete police reports. Special Bounties investigated that incident, but we didn’t get there until almost a week after it happened. Your boys were on top of it from day one,” Holder admitted with a shrug.
“Today was the fourth time I’ve encountered Dice. I wasn’t part of the team that encountered him after he manifested. If I was, I’d be dead. I was brought in only after Dice had already been involved in a second incident involving the MCO. A capture team working with state troopers lost several men in that incident, so they called me in for it. I supposed I could start with his origins,” Wilson said, turning to look at the mass of people moving about, trying to do what they could to clean up a disaster of epic proportions.
“Dice didn’t show up on our radar until after the police called for more specialized backup. Denver has a touch and go relationship with the MCO, more so than the rest of Colorado, but the suburbs know when it's easier to call in us than Denver PD or a hero team. Dice was running from his house, and ran into a patrol unit. According to the dispatcher reports and dashcam video, he looked very panicked, but calmed down incredibly fast once confronted by the police. Remarkable, considering the relationship the average African-American has with the police. He said a monster had attacked his house and he needed help. The patrol unit said they would take him home in the back and have a look. They left him in the car,” Wilson pulled out a pipe and put it in his mouth, and started chewing on the stem, but he didn’t light it. Campus rules said no smoking, afterall.
“That car was later found ripped apart by another unit that was asked to have a look for the original unit responding, which wasn’t answering the dispatcher. Dice was still around the area, and made contact. He was described as frantic, angry, disrespectful, loud, and black by the unit on the scene. He refused to explain anything, just yelling at them to get away from his house. When officers attempted to restrain him, he hit one with his one baton and ran. That officer suffered a head wound and remained outside the house. The units that went in did not come out. That, coupled with the ruined patrol car and the probable evidence of an out of control empowered teenager, prompted local PD to contact the MCO for assistance. We sent in four officers backed by SWAT.” Wilson paused and took a deep breath.
“Our agents had a live video feed, and remained in constant contact, describing the scene. As you probably know from the report we filed with PD, the video feed cut off as soon as they were inside, but the audio… that didn’t.” He spat out a bit of wood he’d chewed off the stem of his pipe before he continued. “Our agents described finding the body of his mother, or at least, the lower half of an african american female of the appropriate age. Being as no other women were known to be involved at the time, they assumed it to be his mother. DNA later confirmed that. The father was found all over the house. The five missing police officers were located upstairs in what was identified as Dice’s bedroom, dangling from the ceiling. The officer who’d gotten a bit racist with Dice had apparently suffered the most before death, given the coroner report. Lots of bits of his flesh ripped off, no single one fatal. It was determined he’d been allowed to, very slowly, bleed to death before chunks were bitten off him.”
Holder didn’t particularly like the sound of the way Wilson was describing the scene, but it fit with the information he already had, though with a smattering of extra details. “They were arranged in a semi-circle, each hung with bits of wire ripped out of the walls of the house. There was a circle connected to the occult drawn onto the floor of the room. The carpet had been ripped up to make room for it. A second one was drawn in blood on the ceiling. Neither was finished. However, I’ve seen the photographs. We were able to get someone to look at them before they… fuzzed. We still don’t know why the photographs were corrupted. It was described as a summoning circle for some kind of very powerful demon, designed to release the creature, not contain it. It wouldn’t function at all until it was finished, however. Lucky for us, it was never completed.”
Holder nodded along.
“Dice reappeared at that point. The units outside reported him as pleading fearfully for everyone to get out, before slowly turning into a screaming angry lunatic ranting at the cops to get away from his house. At about that point, the agents inside realized one of the SWAT team and one of the MCO team were missing. We lost all four members of the MCO and half of the four SWAT team members. The last two made it out alive, but they never fully recovered their sanity. Their still in a psychiatric ward.”
Holder blinked. He’d not been able to learn the fate of the two surviving SWAT members. “Dice ran away again, and he hasn’t been seen near his house since then. When we came back the fourth time, we brought the local hero team, more SWAT, and our power armor frames. We lost most of the house, including the circles, in the process of killing whatever that thing was. We still are not sure precisely what it was, but it was believed to be a lower order of demonic entity,” he finished.
“Given later evidence of footprints, fingerprints, and his actions, warrants were issued for Dice’s arrest in for questioning in connection to the deaths, and the DA pushed to file for charges of Murder in the First,” Wilson concluded. “Of course, we’ve only ever once got Dice near custody. That was last night.” Wilson began to clinically explain the situation that had occurred the night prior, explaining everything that had occurred outside the view of the camera.
He had pursued Dice with Power Armor, replacing one of the four local pilots. The frames were nearly five years old, with very standard and outdated armaments, but in the MCO’s experience, Dice had never proven a major threat to massed fire or Power Armor. Proper insulation and shock absorbers could defend against his magical lightning blasts and hammers. Bullets and explosives could overcome the purple barriers he used to defend himself. The MCO frames were all equipped with capture gels, foams, and nets as well. The MCO very much wanted Dice alive.
Things went wrong when they found the flying minions of the supervillain first. They shot one down and then two, and pursued them. However, by the time they reached the second downed flier, a female with GSD that caused her to have red skin and look part bird, the mutant had regenerated. She and an unknown female seen in the video assaulted the MCO and devastated their power armor. Both paranormals, probably mutants, were able to bypass the defenses of the MCO power armor frames and disable them.
Things after that followed in line with the video. The girl performed a ritual of some sort, killing his officers and reviving Dice, who had been shot during the fighting. Why wasn’t clear to Wilson, and he claimed it wasn’t his place to speculate. Dice lived, but then they abandoned him and left him to rot along with Wilson. He didn’t know for sure why he was left alive.
“What little is visible in the news video of the original incident shows that the slightly taller girl who attacked my men, who was on the ground afterwards, fits the visible profile of the thing Dice attacks and later flees with from both us and the Supervillain Endeavor,” Wilson concluded. He didn’t actually make any conclusions, it was obvious he wanted Holder to make those.
Holder was tempted to make them, too. Dice’s behavior was odd. The girl’s presence was odd. Reports showed her cooperating with a supervillain, as did the video. If she was the girl from the original incident, she’d also attacked the professor and killed the smoke monster. However, the one thing Wilson didn’t explain was why Dice stopped the girl from attacking the police and MCO in the original incident. Holder didn’t speculate, but it was an oddity he wanted answered.
“Our interest in Dice is a result of the fact our evidence suggests Dice’s involvement in at least thirty seven open cases falling under Special Bounties jurisdiction. He is the only common element to the cases, and the bosses want answers. I’ll share the files with you, come on,” Holder urged, leading Wilson away.
Endeavor frowned as he opened his eyes and looked about. He was on the deck of his ship, with several crew members standing cautiously over him. “Sir? Are you awake?” his captain asked carefully.
“Captain, what the hell happened?” the gargoyle shaped man demanded angrily, clenching both fists. He could see the shield and shadows wrapping his ship, and no sign of heroes or anyone else. He had a feeling he knew, because he could remember a great deal of pain.
“You were wounded sir. The heroes overwhelmed your defenses with a concentrated barrage and then a coordinated strike by Princeps and Lionheart. The attack threw you onto the deck, wounded and unconscious. Your shield restored itself, and we’d fixed the shadow-drive. Without you to provide the majority of our firepower and direction, I ordered the ship to withdraw at full speed,” he explained.
Endeavor felt fire blossom across him as his temper threatened to boil, but he contained his rage with very careful breathing exercises. He’d gone through a great deal of painful effort to gain control, he refused to surrender it like this. The captain had made a wise tactical decision. He rightly believed without Endeavor they couldn’t overcome the heroes.
“You made a correct decision, Captain. Give me a full inventory. Start with damages.”
“Sir!” the men around him saluted as he climbed to his feet and stood tall, over seven feet of stone skinned monster. “All main shipborne weapon systems were manually disabled, but in a few hours we can have them all up. We’ve got three working already. The saboteur kept it simple, he didn’t waste time breaking anything, instead he just disassembled them. There are two holes in the ship’s hull, one directly outside Toy training room #1, the other close to the brig on deck #3. There are holes in deck #3’s floor leading into the hold and into the Energizer room where Toys #2 and #3 were being kept. Both prisoners are missing from their cells. The shield… we aren’t sure how the saboteur disabled it, nor do we know why it turned back on,” the captain explained with a gulp of fear.
“I do not expect you to know how it works, Captain. You are not an initiate into the mystic arts, after all. I will determine what was done myself,” Endeavor stated, considering. They’d blown holes in his ship and stolen five of his toys. Today was proving to be a near total loss, a complete disaster from start to finish. “Captain, what about the extra captures held in the brig?”
The captain turned towards one of the other men, and nodded. The man stepped forward. “Sir! I was dispatched to secure all prisoners when battle began. I regret to report I failed, however, your magical charms functioned as you described regarding the two captives in cells A and B. Both of the girls taken from the University campus are still there, the heroes did not rescue them.”
Endeavor nodded. “How did you fail? What did you do?” he asked, deceptively calm.
“I reported to the brig to find Miss, ah, your pet, Froggy, already there. She demanded to know what I was doing and I explained. She ordered me to guard the door and saw to the prisoners herself. However, she was unaware of the two prisoners in cells A and B. She only noticed the prisoners in Cells E and F. We noticed irregular behavior in your special prize, sir. She ordered me to contact you about it. The girl was complaining of extreme hunger and weakness. She looked… she did not look well, sir.”
Endeavor frowned. Froggy had disobeyed his orders to remain in his room and gone to the brig, but the heroes had left his toy behind. They also hadn’t seen his two other prizes. A young girl snuck from the wreckage of the dorm, and another captured from the crowd fleeing his entrance. Both had been divined by him as energizers… one of them was also a latent mage, he suspected. He was always glad of more pawns and tools to add to his power. He chose women because he also enjoyed breaking them and the feel of their bodies.
He had placed special charms on all six of those cells. Each charm would prevent someone outside it from truly perceiving what was inside… unless they knew what they were looking for. The heroes, including Dice, had known he held both the girl and the heroine. That made locating both girls without help plausible, but Froggy’s actions were worrisome. However, he was glad to know the two women the heroes didn’t know about had utterly escaped their notice and Froggy’s.
“Where is Froggy now?” he asked.
“I was knocked unconscious by the boy called Dice just after he entered the ship. When I came to, Froggy was tied up inside Cell E with a large number of cables, ropes, wires, and other things. She was unconscious, asleep more-like. I would guess exhaustion,” the man supplied.
“What was your name?”
“Henry Calville, Sir,” Calville replied.
“Well, Henry Calville, I did not ask for your speculations. Do not give them to me unless I ask. I also recall there being standing orders that Froggy is only to be addressed with male pronouns. Do not forget that. Now, where is he?”
“Sir! Froggy is in his assigned room on the second floor!” Calville replied stiffly.
“The rest of you, get to work. Calville, Captain, follow me. I must examine Froggy and see if he is a traitor or just foolish,” Endeavor ordered, striding towards the stairs near his room. The two men followed behind him rapidly as Endeavor cleared his mind and focused on ordering his thoughts and making decisions on what to do next. This entire affair had gone wrong because of Dice, and he’d failed to acquire his primary objective.
He strode into the room containing Froggy. The boy pretending to be a girl was sleeping under the sheets, all tucked in nice and neat. Endeavor strode up and sat down on the bunk next to the boy’s head, stroking it fondly to establish contact with him as the villain glanced at Calville. The man had allowed a very fond look to grace his face as he looked at the boy. So, he was Calville’s type. The man was sweet on Froggy! Distracted, Endeavor pulled up Froggy’s memories of Calville, and the girlboy had noticed it as well, but had been far less sure if it was simple ignorance or something more.
For a brief moment, Endeavor almost fired Calville on the spot. Then he reconsidered. If Froggy was merely a fool and not a traitor, he might be able to use Calville’s affection for him to further his control of the girlboy. He slipped thoughts of Calville and his “gentle, warm embrace” into the head under his hand, suggesting he should accept the man’s affections and advances. Then he began digging into the boy’s memories of the night. He watched everything, including the terror of failing him as he pursued his master’s goals. Froggy was as afraid of reward as failure, or nearly so. He slightly wiped away a little of the fear he held of reward again, so the girlgoy would be just a little quicker to bend to his whims as he needed. He also heightened the fear of failure.
Endeavor moved on. He found Froggy’s memories of failing to sleep after he was done rewarding his toy, and the decision to try and earn his approval when the attack began. He was pleased with that. Froggy had gone down to secure the prisoners himself, assuming correctly the heroes had come for them. He watched and listening to the conversations with both Calville and the girl, who called herself Hollow. Froggy’s memories blacked out as the door opened again and he saw Dice enter the brig.
The very last of Froggy’s memories was Dice binding the girlboy with all the things Calville had described, and that was when Froggy’s memory ended. Everything else was dreams.
Endeavor stood up and left Froggy to his dreams. Froggy had disobeyed Endeavor, but for a reason Endeavor desired to encourage. He saw no need to punish the girlboy at this time. He would use mundane punishments for his toy’s failure to secure his prisoners and for disobeying his orders, but it would not have to involve anything truly unpleasant. Just enough to reinforce Endeavor’s displeasure.
“Calville, keep watch outside. Captain, I am heading to my study, ensure I am not disturbed,” he ordered as he strode out. He would have to make corrections to the timeline of his plan. There were many matters to attend to, but one trumped all.
Calville snapped to attention and walked out to stand at the door. The Captain saluted and strode off to do his own job, as Endeavor headed down the stairs and down again, until he reached the belly of the ship. He walked through the hold, glancing idly at the damage Dice had inflicted to his beloved vessel. He clamped down hard on the anger that boiled up, and strode past the damage to the back of the hold.
To distract himself, he glanced into Froggy’s head. The girlboy was already dreaming of Calville. The dream was of Calville, shirtless, slowly pulling Froggy in and kissing Endeavor’s favorite pet tenderly on the lips. The kiss slowly deepened in passion as it continued. Endeavor smiled as he reached his study. All was going as he wanted on that front. His hidden door recognized his presence and swung itself open for him without him having to lift a finger.
Endeavor walked inside and it swung shut, causing his private study to vanish. He strode to the rug at the center, and took his seat. He began to breath carefully until he was in tune with the hum of his ship. When that happened, he began channeling his essence. He’d taken a great deal of extra essence from the very plentiful stores available to Froggy, and his own WIZ trait had gained him more. He had enough for this. The essence flowed, shaped automatically by the fung shui of the room and twisted itself as he desired.
A creature in blue began to resolve like mist into being before him. It was entwined about with what looked like barbed wire made of iron. The pointed ears suggested much about the nature of the spirit. “Why did you not foresee the boy, Dice?” he demanded of the spirit he had carefully bound and enslaved to his will. His eyes remained closed and his breathing rhythmic as he spoke.
“He is a maverick, a walking mar on the pattern of the world,” the spirit of the oracle replied, grimacing in pain. “He cannot be seen but in tiny glimpses at random, and events are twisted around him, leaving the outcomes mared. He is not foretold. He is not foreseen. No fate touches him…”
Endeavor knew the spirit could tell him no lie. He had made sure of that. “That will be a problem. When next can I find my prize?” he demanded of it.
“I cannot see all ends, and less still can I see where the boy treads, but I see her in the east, a few moons hence. In five moons, I see her again somewhere west, beyond the mountains near the sea. Then… then I do not see her again, until your goal is ended,” the spirit informed its master, still grimacing in pain. Endeavor snarled, and with a wave of his hand, dismissed it, granting reprieve from the torment of its summoning. The essence began moving again as Endeavor shifted himself two feet to the left. Once more the fung shui of the room took hold and once more, the essence was shaped automatically as Endeavor desired.
Slowly, an image of something red flicked into life in front of him. “Master, I must report abject failure,” he intoned.
“Indeed? Please, my beloved apprentice, tell me everything, so we may take appropriate action for next time,” the voice of his master replied. Endeavor obeyed.
Her eyes snapped open as she felt something splash her face. She looked around frantically until she could focus on what had gotten her wet. A man lay in a tub next to her, and his hand was dripping with water.
“I see you are awake, Miss Zinda,” he said weakly. He looked like he was in bad shape, but he gave her a smile. With a start, Hollow realized she was looking at Rainstep. She had fantasized about meeting him… and her fantasy were nothing like this, seeing his badly battered body soaking in some kind of special tub while she was literally bound hand and feet.
“Where am I? What is going on?” she asked frantically.
“You are safe in the Knights’ transport. Lionheart had you tied down so you would not hurt yourself or anyone else with all your thrashing about,” Rainstep replied calmly. “Sorry for splashing water on your face, but my water has odd properties, I hoped it would help and… I guess it did.”
Someone stepped into the room she shared with the hero. It was Lionheart himself. “Ah, I see you’re awake, little lady,” he rumbled as he strode up to her. “If you would kindly hold still, I can get you out of these restraints. Do you know where you are?” he asked gently.
She nodded, holding still as his clawed, yet so very velvety soft, hands undid her restraints carefully. She slowly sat up and swung her legs down as she looked around. “Dice… he left, he left me behind?” she gave voice to the fear just beginning to grow inside. She remembered now. The conversation. Dice had said goodbye because he did not want to endure the pain of parting with her awake. He did not want to feel her when she said goodbye…
Lionheart nodded gently. “He did. He is alright, and you are safe,” he assured her.
She shook her head. “No, I am not. None of us are, because… the monsters will come. I heard you, I heard him… I remember now…” she was beginning to shake, but she gripped the edge of the seat with all her strength and held it back. “I was so hungry, and I knew… my scent draws my prey. It brings me food, but… I cannot turn it off. I cannot! You are all in danger!” she insisted, looking at Lionheart worriedly.
Gently, he reached out and set a massive hand on her shoulder. She felt Rainstep touch her leg. “We can deal with that. It will be alright,” he told her in his deep rumbling voice. She wanted badly to believe him… but she knew she was dangerous to them all. What would happen if she got too hungry again? Who would snap her out of it this time, without Dice? He had saved her from herself twice!
“Hollow, Hollow, it’s ok, you’re safe and we will protect you,” Lionheart promised her.
“What about the video?” she asked as she curled into a ball, knees to her chin, looking down at the floor. “It was… the MCO had video of me attacking them, did they not? I did it cause that minion was threatening Dice and the girl… she said that was my only option, if I wanted to save him… but they will not buy that. The MCO will just take me away… how can you protect me from myself?” she asked. Lionheart’s face looked stricken as she looked up at it.
“We’ve got some good lawyers on our side. We’ll get you out of this, I promise,” he told her. “I’ve got to go see to a few things, but Rain… damn. Just stay here, I’ll send Auceps in to keep an eye on you, ok?” he asked. Rainstep had slipped back into unconsciousness.
She nodded, and the lionman walked to the front of the craft and spoke to someone in the front portion, telling him to come back and look after her. Then he walked out the side door. A moment later, a rat that looked a little human walked into the space, taking in the sight of her.
He walked over and hopped onto the seat next to her. “So, what’s eatin ya, kiddo?” he asked in a squeaky voice. Unexpectedly, Hollow felt a giggle escape her at the unquestionably odd sight.
“That bad, huh?” he responded with what she hoped was a smile.
“I am not safe to be around. I… my scent attracts monsters. I am a threat to all of you, and the MCO is gonna take me away, cause I attacked them. I helped get some of their men killed. The police will have warrants out for my arrest, and my appearance is really distinctive,” she muttered. “I will be identified unless I live in hiding for the rest of my life. I do not want to live in hiding…” she added. “I do not want to get taken away… and…”
“He ditched you,” Auceps finished for her. “You probably get why, but he left and you didn’t get a say in it, and that eats at you. I may not get all the emotions you humans go through, but that much I do. I’m the result of some bastard’s lab experiment. I’m a super genius supersized rat. I was abandoned a lot, but this one guy, he stuck by me. Had no reason to, didn’t want anything from me, just… decided to stick his nose in. No benefit for him, nothing but risk, and to help some random as hell science experiment!” he exclaimed with a chuckle. “I tell ya, what a sucker he was. But still, he did it anyways. He got me free, he got me declared “A sapient being and a properly born natural citizen of the US,” with all the rights and shit. Cause I was born in the US, and the experiments were conducted here too. So he sued on my behalf, nearly drowned in the legal fees, but he got me freed! Then he just tried to walk off, told me to go live my life, ya know?”
He sat a paw on her leg. “So I followed him. You met Keggers yet? He’s the idiot that saved my life. Lionheart ain’t gonna thank me for saying this, but I’m not human, I’m a rat. Why should I give my own behind what society thinks the right thing to do is?” he asked, getting another laugh out of her. “You do what ya gotta do, kid. What you think is right. It’s the only way to learn. Follow your heart,” he advised. He nodded sagely with what she was now certain was a massive grin, and turned to squeakily walk back into the room he’d been in. “I’m just gonna step into the cockpit here. Oh, Lionheart left a bag of extra supplies, a tent, blankets, and shit over there by the door. Just in case or something. I dunno, but he did. I gotta grab something, but I’ll be right back out, so don’t go anywhere,” the rat admonished her with a laugh and a squeak.
She smiled, understanding his intent. As soon as he walked into the cockpit she ran to the door and grabbed the pack. Someone had put a fresh, but badly fitted, shirt on her at some point, for which she was grateful. She slapped what she guessed to be the door control and ran outside. Lionheart looked up at her, but she turned and ran, following her nose. She knew where Dice was. She could smell him. She was not safe with the Knights. She put them in danger, both monstrous and legal. Dice though… he had already proved himself up to the task. He was not going to get away with running out on her! There was no way she was going to leave him alone again!
Dice paused for a moment on his trek northward. He’d been walking for nearly an hour. At first, he’d considered stopping and setting up camp, but the phone the Knights had given him included a GPS. It was a fairly new smartphone and it contained an unlimited data plan as well. There was a motel another thirty minutes away. He could get a room there for the day. No one was looking for Dice out here. The Knights had promised to say nothing about his part in the rescue, and the girls all agreed. They owed him their lives, they said. They wouldn’t betray him.
What had prompted his pause was a change in the sensation in his head. The little blip that was Hollow. It was getting closer. He turned towards it, waiting. He could guess what it meant, and part of him was grateful. He was tired of being alone, yet how could he just accept letting her come? Then again… how could he stop her, unless the Knights could? Then… if they could stop her, they would have, he decided. He just smiled a little, as he felt Hollow getting closer and closer.
Lionheart loosed a rumbling sigh of resignation as he watched Hollow’s retreating form. It was possible he could catch her. He was reasonably fast in flight, but she could outmaneuver him since she could walk on air. She was running at speeds akin to an Exemplar 5, and he was only a 4 without his shell.
He’d known as soon as he left Auceps in charge of watching her this might happen. He’d made it her decision. The fact was… he didn’t believe he could protect her. He’d have done everything in his power, so long as she was willing, but at the moment, he wasn’t sure he had any options that would have kept her out of MCO hands. The moment they got hold of her, she’d be gone forever. Or… until Dice could find her, if she wasn’t killed first. Then she’d be on the run again anyways.
So he’d set a second pack aside, and left the one member of his crew he knew would give advice he could never offer in charge of her. Jimmy didn’t think like a man. He understood, for the most part, how humans thought, but he wasn’t human. He did, however, understand repaying a person who saved your life for no reason but one. It was just what one did. That was why he trusted Keggers, and so long as there was Keggers, there was Jimmy.
Plenty of professional heroes, veterans even he was junior to, would cry foul. They would hate or detest him for letting a teenaged girl run off to join the wandering of a black teenaged boy, or if they weren’t stupid, just a teenaged boy. However… Lionheart felt he understood Dice better than that. Dice would never take advantage of her. It was the line he could not cross. It was part of what separated him from the monsters, and Dice… Dice was a good man. He fought the night because the night came to him, but he would not join it. He refused to become what he fought. Dice was strong. Dice would do what Lionheart could not.
In so doing, he would let Lionheart do all he could. Most importantly… Lionheart’s team, Lionheart’s people, would be safe. “Boss… Richard… are you sure?” Princeps asked him nervously. The young man stood behind him, watching her go.
“I genuinely doubt I could catch her. Even if I could, it would take a lot to restrain her. Those blades went through my PK shield like butter, Will. They’ll do the same to steel. We can’t force her to stay, it’s that simple. We’ve done all we can to aid them directly. The rest is a job for money and lawyers. Somebody needs to start straightening out the defense for those two, when the time comes. For the one we didn’t save, as well. All three will need our help in the future, when the law catches up or there’s nowhere left to run. We’ll be there, and we’ll be ready,” he promised. Lionheart kept his promises, as best he was able. It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t mystic. It was just what one did. A knight kept his oaths and looked after his own.
Hollow saw Dice ahead of her, watching her approach, just waiting for her. She slid to a stop on the air, the cold december air slowly warming in the light of the rising sun. “You left me,” she stated.
“I thought it was the right thing to do,” he replied, grinning. “I’m happy to say I was wrong,” he added.
She blinked in surprise. “You are?”
“I know I can’t make you go back. If this is your choice… I’m glad I’m not alone anymore,” he replied.
She leapt at him, enveloping him in a hug. “I promise, you will never be alone again. I am with you. I am not safe anywhere else. I am your friend, Dice,” she insisted, looking up at him with her own smile. “Do not forget it,” she added as an order.
“I won-” he started to reply, then his gaze snapped to his left. He snapped into a guarded posture, a barrier snapping into place. Hollow followed him, blades appearing in her hands as she slid into what she hoped was a defensive posture of her own.
A man walked out of a portal in the air, stepping onto the ground. He looked at them curiously, then held up a package in his arms. “I have a delivery for a Lucas Koenig, from a Mrs. Potter. I was told to be at this GPS location, at this time, and deliver it to a one-armed boy in a long coat, but only if he was accompanied by an Indian girl in a too big shirt with swords and horns on her head. That would appear to be the pair of you. Could you sign for it please?” he asked, holding up a clipboard.
Dice goggled at the guy, looking from package, to the clipboard, to the man. Then his shield vanished. Hollow could only guess his empathy had told Dice that the delivery warper spoke the truth.
Dice took the package carefully, and signed for it. “Thanks, good luck,” he added, and vanished the way he had arrived, his portal closing behind him.
Dice looked at where the man had been, then his TK grabbed the package and hauled it some thirty feet away and tore it open. It tipped onto the side as the box opened, revealing a card and a scroll. The inside the box was festooned with wards that had kept her sight from noticing the magic contained within, but the scroll was suffused with a warm soft glow. “It’s magic…” she whispered.
Slowly, the box, card, and scroll all floated closer. The card turned out to be a letter, which Dice opened slowly. “It’s addressed to me,” he muttered in mock surprise.
Dear Mr. Lucas Koenig,
My name is not important. You will one day find a time when you decide that you cannot run away. When that day comes, I hope you will call the number I have listed here. It will help you. The scroll is a gift, to help you survive to see that day. I hope it helps. I will not wish you good luck, that would be a waste on you. God go with you, young Dice.
There was no signature. A phone number followed it instead.
The two of them stared at it in surprise, rereading it several times, before unrolling the scroll. “I… it’s Greek,” Dice said in surprise. “That’s helpful, I don’t read Greek…”
“I do,” Hollow spoke up. “But this is old. Incredibly old. I cannot believe this thing is even still in such good condition. Maybe it is the magic…” she mused.
Dice shrugged. “Perhaps,” he replied, rolling up the scroll and tucking both inside his coat. “There’s a motel a short walk from here. I could use some sleep in a real bed for once… you coming?” he asked.
She nodded, and the pair of them started walking again. “So… your name is Lucas?” she asked him once they had started walking. She was not actually touching the ground, but instead walking about an inch above it. She still was not dressed for the cold weather, and just like the night before, did not appear to be the least bothered by it.
Dice, Lucas, stifled a yawn and nodded. “Lucas Jaeger Koenig. My grandfather on my father’s side was pureblood German. Apparently, dad said it means “Light Bringing Hunter King,” in english, or close to it,” he explained with a chuckle.
Hollow slugged him in his remaining arm, but very lightly. “Hey! You teased me about my parents having a weird naming sense, and yet you were sitting on that? Who names their kid “Light Bringing Hunter King,” anyway?” she mock growled at him.
“Parents who taught me why books are awesome and who J.R.R. Tolkien is? Who also covered why the Lord of the Rings was one of the greatest works mankind ever wrote, and who basically raised me on the Lord of the Rings and Narnia books and movies?” he replied with a shrug and a twinkle in his eye.
Hollow almost fell over laughing. Her real genuine mirth was infectious, and soon Dice was laughing too. They weren’t sure of their future, but each felt better to have the other to hand. A lot of strange events had happened in the past eight hours, but many more were sure to follow. And this time, Dice would not face them all alone.
He started humming a song, and when to his delight Hollow joined in he began to sing.
Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.
Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
Let them pass! Let them pass!
Hill and water under sky,
Pass them by! Pass them by!
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!
Sand and stone and pool and dell,
Fare you well! Fare you well!
Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
The world behind and home ahead,
We'll wander back to home and bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!
To be Continued...