When the cold of winter comes
Starless night will cover day
In the veiling of the sun
We will walk in bitter rain
But in dreams
I can hear your name
And in dreams
We will meet again
Howard Shore, The Breaking of the Fellowship
October 10th, 2007
The Nations Teepee, North of Holbrook Arena
"Yeah?" The big Alaskan senior was a little groggy from cold and fatigue, and that concerned him. He shouldn't have felt this cold, not inside the tepee with the buffalo robes. This wasn't a natural snowstorm, he was starting to fear. The fire was out now, all the fuel consumed and when he had tried to go outside to gather more, over her protestations, the cold and the wind had bitten into him through muscle and bone down into his soul. He realized leaving the teepee would be a death sentence.
They were bundled as tightly as they could, with several furs underneath them, between them and the hard, cold floor. And with each passing moment it seemed the warmth trapped around them in the furs got a little less. "I'm ... I'm scared," Kayda admitted, her voice cracking.
"You're safe, Kayda," Wyatt reassured her, with a confidence he didn't feel. "I promise."
"I ... I d-d-don't want to f-f-freeze to d-d-death." Her shivering was getting more intense, and she shook as she sobbed.
"You won't freeze to death, Kayda," the senior repeated. "I promise. I won't let you." Again the silence fell and the howling of the wind outside and slapping of the leather against the frame polls was their only sound. Wyatt rubbed his hands on her back to warm her a bit.
"D-d-debra and I ... we ... we w-w-wanted to have a f-f-family," the girl said out of the blue.
"Lanie, Tansy and I are going to have a family someday," Wyatt said, thinking of the pleasant times with the girls who were also lovers and the complicated discussion they had had over the summer in Georgia. "If you live near us, our kids can be friends."
"I ... I guess I knew that s-s-someday, if we're g-g-going to do that, then I'll h-h-have to ...." Her voice trailed off but her meaning was only too clear. Now there was an element of revulsion and not just cold in her shivering.
"There are other methods," Wyatt answered. “Nothing says Deb can't play mom, right?”
The Lakota girl was silent for almost a minute. "I'm afraid. W-w-we aren't going to m-m-make it, are we?"
"Yes, we will." The answer was quick from his lips, but in the back of his mind, he felt the worry of The Kodiak. This was not a natural storm and outside anything Wyatt could remember going through in all his time at the school.
"N-n-n o, we won't!" Kayda cried in protest. He felt her lift her head off his chest and he looked down in the dim light to find her eyes wet with tears. "This ... isn't a n-n-normal storm. We're g-g-going to f-f-freeze. And ... I w-w-won't ever have children!"
"Kayda, don't talk like that," Wyatt gently chided her.
"It's b-b-been ... thirty hours? Thirty t-t-two? The storm hasn't let up!" The girl's cheeks were moist as she wept in fear and uncertainty. "N-n-no-one is l-l-looking for us! And ... and I ... d-d-don't have enough essence to k-k-keep us warm. The storm has ... m-m-magic. I c-c-can't do my heat spell. "
Her logic, despite the cold, was getting harder to deflect as he too was becoming concerned their chances were grim. "We'll be okay," the senior said again, forcing himself to believe it. "They'll come looking for us."
"And they'll f-f-find us f-f-frozen stiff!"
The girl turned her head, wiping the tears from her eyes and a different look came over her face. "Wyatt, I'm ..." she batted her eyes. "I'm n-n-not afraid of you." She saw the big man's eyes widen at that comment and she forced a smile with shivering lips. "I'm ... afraid of almost all m-m-men, but ... I trust you."
"Thanks," Wyatt said, but he sounded wary, because he wasn't sure where the Lakota girl's thoughts were taking her. "You're ... like my little sister, since you're Lanie's soul sister. I could never hurt you. You know that."
"If we're going to f-f-freeze," the girl ventured, her voice cracking with nervousness, and she halted. For several seconds, there was a long silence between the two. "At the hot-t-t-tub party, I ... I heard Lanie t-t-talking about ... about what it's l-l-like to ... you know." She shut up again for several seconds. "She says that ... that when you m-m-make love to her, it's like ... she's the only one in the whole universe," Kayda said softly, almost reverently, "and ... and she knows that ... that ..."
"Shh," Wyatt said softly to hush the girl. He wasn't exactly comfortable hearing that he was the topic of conversation among a group of young, bisexual girls. But he was a teenager himself, and the thought that even his, at the time ex, girlfriend was bragging on his abilities in the bedroom was very flattering. It made for a pleasant distraction for a few, fleeting moments.
"Wyatt," she said again after a few seconds, "I ... I'm afraid I'd be a terrible parent.”
He looked down at her, still sitting in his lap with her head against his shoulder. This allowed for a slightly larger air cavity for their bodies to keep warm and she was only shaking a little. She didn't raise her head when he asked, “What kind of a thing to say is that? You and Deb are probably going to be great parents...”
“Deb, maybe,” she replied morosely. “I never grew up day dreaming about being a mother. And now that it's my reality I just think back to the awful time my mother had raising me and Danny. All the crap we gave her...I...I don't have the strength she does! And giving birth? I can barely wrap my head around dealing with the period, but a baby?” She finally raised her huge, green eyes and asked, “And what if something is wrong with me? What if whatever Wakan Tanka did to change me messed up my body somehow and...”
Wyatt touched the bracer he wore and the little magical hologram appeared. He purposefully left it in the strange, yet beautifully flowing script that he took for Elvish or Native Atlantean. Thanks to the Kodiak he could read it as easily as he could English, but he was worried about what it said. Out loud he forced his voice into a cheery tone and remarked, “Well, Dr Kodiak says there is nothing whatsoever wrong with you, In fact, you just released a very healthy egg that is just about perfect as far as this thing is concerned.”
He saw the magical barrier around the egg that no sperm would be able to penetrate, but decided not to split hairs. “You are perfectly normal,” he declared.
“Normal...” she whispered, laying her head against his shoulder once more. In seconds, the display told him she was asleep again. He stared at the hologram and stewed in his worry.
“Kodiak?” he whispered. “How accurate is...?”
She has hypothermia, the spirit replied, confirming the warning in the hologram Wyatt had read. Her body temperature is down to ninety five degrees and she has signs of early frost bite on both feet. This is getting serious, son, you have to...”
Do what? He thought angrily at the spirit. Taking her out into that is a death sentence. I'd never find the tunnel door in that white out. And it would take half an hour at least to follow my nose to the kitchens. You think she'd last half an hour in that storm?
No, the Kodiak admitted. Do your best to keep her warm.
Wyatt shifted into his bear from without waking Kayda, giving her one last layer of fur to try and trap her precious body heat. Anything else?
Pray, the spirit said grimly.
October 10th, 2007
The Crystal Hall
The monster Hekate had called 'Master' sat at a table by himself and sulked as he half-heartedly ate scrambled eggs. Across the gulf on the other side of this tier the clowns in spandex were laughing at their table. Well, most of them were. Cursed luck! He thought to himself as he glared daggers at the fur covered form of Danica sitting next to Marty Penn. A perfect, perfect play engineering the bullies, playing with their fears and revulsion’s culminating in a climax that was brilliant! Humiliated in front of the entire school! Outcast and all but spat on!
It should have driven the Franks girl mad with anger, driving her into the library to protect her freak sibling and right into his waiting trap. But the bitch wasn't even here! And it wasn't Kayda who had come to her brother's defense, but the school laughing stock, Marty Penn and her dolt of a lover!
Now Danica was protected by the Superhero wannabes, but that was not the same as being out of his reach. The Master's eyes narrowed. It was obvious Marty was protecting a 'sister' freak and her boy toy of a lover was bullying the rest of the spandex crowd into line. It seemed clear that Sayyid had wanted nothing to do with Stronghold's crusade of faggot protection. No one else in the club had ties to Danica. If Mega Girl and Stronghold were eliminated, Danica's protection would be gone and the furry freak would be back in play as a pawn to use against Kayda.
There was nothing else for it, Martine Penn and Stephen Nalley had to die.
A cruel smile turned up the corners of The Master's face. And he knew just how to accomplish it.
“Mom wants to know if you would like to come with me to Thanksgiving Dinner,” Stephen told Marty as he placed the cup of coffee he had gotten her within her reach and sat down. His own beverage was a glass of cola he put down next to his tablet in preparation for sitting down next to her on the other side of a still shell-shocked Danica.
Marty looked up, a bit of trepidation on her face. “You want me to meet your parents?” she asked after a fearful swallow.
“No,” he replied with a wink. “You'll do that on Parent's Day. Mom and Dad are both coming up.” He noticed her trepidation and reached over to hug and reassure her. “Hey, it's no big deal, right? They're just people.”
“Steve, it's...it's a big step!” she protested. He shrugged and took a sip of his cola.
“Hey, at least we aren't chasing my crazy sister and getting into a major battle like when I met your folks!” She crossed her arms over her chest peevishly.
“That was different!” she declared. “We weren't really dating, and you had barely even kissed me and...” He gave her the gimlet eye.
“Right, and all last summer when we were at your house every weekend and doing...well...more than kissing, what was that?” he demanded.
“I...I just...” she sighed. “I'm scared,” she whispered and leaned into the hug he gave her. “This has all been so...amazing...Steve and, and, meeting your parents...”
He chuckled and squeezed her a bit harder. “Shit's getting real, huh?”
“So, am I just your boy toy, or are we something more?” he whispered in her ear. Her heart was thundering in her chest and she remembered the fantasy in the shower when she felt she had finally become a woman.
“More,” she whispered. “I want...I want more and...”
“One step at the time,” he said with a playful kiss of her ear. “Meet the 'Rents. Who knows? Ya might disown me right there!”
“Not a chance, Mister! I like curling up with Rhett Butler!”
“Whoa! I better find out if the school store carries Brill Cream if I have to pull off a Clark Gable impersonation!”
“I don't know, I'd probably look pretty hot with a pencil thin mustache....!” She elbowed him in the stomach, which did nothing and his hands, already around her began to tickle her sides mercilessly.
“Stop! Stop!” she gasped around peals of laughter.
“Hey!” declared Hippy from the other side of the table. “Knock it off or go get a room!” But for once, the senior didn't seem angry in her declaration. In fact, she looked quite sad and looked away at the snow, still falling outside.
“Sorry, Hippy,” Nalley told her, contritely.
The big senior made a dismissive gesture as she stood and crossed the few feet to lean against the cold crystal wall as though being closer would let her see further. “Don't worry about it.”
In a more somber mood, Marty leaned over and kissed Stephen on his cheek. “I'll ask my folks if it's ok.”
October 10th, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall
Mrs Carson swept into her office, muttering angrily to herself as she went. There were days when she absolutely delighted in her work at this school, when her students surpassed her wildest expectations and soared to heights of great achievement. Of course there were tedious days of mind numbingly dull administrative tasks, fighting with the Trust for funding and the day-to-day grind of running a school as complicated as Whateley was. Then there were days like these; days when her students lives where threatened despite her best efforts and safe guards. It was days like these when it was extremely dangerous to be an enemy of Elizabeth Carson. She spoke a word of power and the Armani skirt suit with it's Prada heels vanished back to their closet in Whateley House to be replaced around her svelte frame with the white and gold linen robes of Lady Astarte.
Her steps quickly brought her to the side wall of her office and its pair of windows that looked out over the Fixer's Patio and the Crystal Hall. She had deliberately situated the office so that her back was not to the windows so that when confronting troublemakers, they had no choice but to pay attention to her. In the gap between the windows stood a book case, filled with text books the school used currently, as well as other, older volumes of higher learning. One, a much dog eared tome in green felt with faded gold letters was labeled The Elements and the single name: Euclid. She tipped the book forward and with a soft click, a latch was freed and bookcase swung away from her, into the wall, revealing the doorway it concealed.
An impossible doorway because this was an exterior wall, framed by a pair of windows.
Lady Astarte stepped through the door, closing it and her book case behind her as she strode into the Alexander Room. She had been surprised to receive a letter from the late Headmaster, addressed to her in his flowing, ornate handwriting upon her first day in this office as the 'official' Headmistress having finally been confirmed by the Board of Trustees. It had been laying on her desk as if hand delivered and bore no postmark or even date. None of the office ladies in administration would admit to placing it on her desk that fateful morning, nor had anyone remembered seeing someone enter her office. It was just there.
That the author of the letter had been dead five years was equally disturbing, but then, Clifford Alexander had always had a side he hid very carefully from others.
The letter had told her of the existence of the hidden dimension, attached just behind the wall of the bookcase as well as an inventory of its contents, the legacy of a lifetime of study of the Mystic Arts and collecting magical relics, which he was entrusting to her. It was the kind of cache that wizards would kill over, that dragons would horde once upon a time and supervillains would lust over finding.
Liz Carson, blue-collar child of the forties was terrified of it.
All of the stories of her youth coupled with the hard lessons life had taught her agreed this was the kind of power that corrupted; as near to absolute power as she was likely to see, filled with wonders and items that could humble the world. The letter had told her of the burden Clifford Alexander had felt as he began to amass the treasure trove of artifacts; first in the interest of study, then later with the realization some of these things had to be kept out of the wrong hands. Liz Carson, the letter had told her, possessed hands Cliff Alexander trusted with the magical equivalent of a nuclear arsenal. Something she found mildly ironic because she had been convinced the Headmaster actively despised her, her sense of justice and her career as a heroine.
The first of the items he had entrusted her with, she made use of just inside the door, dipping King Wenceslas' Chalice into the stone fountain of water it sat on. The Chalice was a goblet of beaten gold, the size and shape of a water goblet, its lip adorned in silver that lined the interior of the Chalice. The water came from a spring, deep in the Presidential Mountains and was absolutely pure, flowing through the font and back heedless of its mystical detour. Not that it mattered, it could have been radioactive sludge from the reactor pool of Chernobyl, or run off from the Monsoon downstream of the Slums around New Delhi once poured into King Wenceslas' Chalice it was as pure as if from the springs of Eden.
Elizabeth sighed as the cold, crisp water flowed into her, feeling her Well fill with Essence, thanks to the other ability of the Chalice, before she set it down and proceeded deeper into the room. It was a large space, and Liz wasn't entirely sure it didn't get a little larger every time she visited it, done in two stories, the topmost a library of obscure tomes of esoteric knowledge on every subject that ringed the room accessed by a wooden railed ledge that ringed the room and offered access from a pair of spiral stair cases at opposite corners.
The first floor was half formal Drawing Room like something from a 19th-Century English Gentleman’s Club, half professional sorcerer’s dream workshop. The Drawing Room was furnished in over-stuffed leather chairs in rich, red leather and masterfully carved and stained wood structure with matching tables, before a fireplace with about half a tree blazing merrily, and Tiffany-shaded lamps.
The workshop was state of the art, with a formal casting circle, a storage of casting materials so well stocked it had never failed to have something she needed for a spell and an ornate wooden bookstand capable of supporting a Gutenberg Bible, all standing ready to be used. There were several doors leading off into the various store rooms for the artifacts.
And, as always, Zoe was calmly looking at her as she entered.
The letter had not been entirely sanguine about what, exactly Zoe was. Dr Alexander had admitted that when he created the extra dimensional pocket the Alexander Room resided in, Zoe had been waiting for him when he entered. It also stated that the...being...for lack of a better word had been his faithful confidant for the better part of fifty years. But he wasn't entirely certain he trusted the creature.
The creature, spirit, or whatever it was could change its appearance on a whim, but to Liz's knowledge it had never appeared as anything other than some stereotypical form of a servant; the ever knowledgeable Jeeves of P. G. Wodehouse, the blue, bare chested and vest wearing Djinn of Scheherazade’s1001 Nights, and once a disturbingly realistic version of Uncle Tom, complete with slave collar and whip scars had all been guises the being had worn. Just now it appeared to be a Sikh member of the Guild of Professional English Butlers wearing a spotless white Kurti tunic that reached his knees, over white pants. An orange turban covered his head with a matching sash around his waist. He appeared to be a dark complected man of about forty with a full black beard and flashing, dark eyes. “Welcome, afendi,” he greeted with a shallow bow. “I have your tea prepared,” he informed her, with a gesture to the cart next to him.
Liz walked over to the cart finding a cup of Darjeeling waiting on her with a fresh orange slice and honey exactly as she liked it. “Thank you, Zoe,” she told the spirit as she took a sip. Part of her wondered if the creature ever had an off day because the tea was excellent as usual. “What can you tell me about the Spirit Coyote?”
The beard parted to display gleaming, perfect white teeth as he held up a finger in remembrance. “Ah, I should have realized Madam's issue had the trickster at its root.” He turned and ascended the spiral staircase behind him to fetch a book and return with it. “While most sorcerer's are connoisseurs of Tobin's Spirit Guide, I find I prefer the details of the older work of T. Watson Spates to be most helpful, specifically his Catalog of Nameless Horrors.” He presented the book. “I believe Madam will find this most interesting reading.”
“Thank you, Zoe,” Carson replied, opening the book on a bookmarked page, finding it the entry she wanted. “Would you be so kind as to prepare an Astral Tunneling Ritual?”
The would be Sikh bowed. “It would be my pleasure.”
March 10th, 774CE
The March of Dreams
Elaine had her bow strung and an arrow nocked as she and Tansy, somewhat delayed by the dress the other was wearing, arrived at the outermost wall that encircled the village. “Dresses aren't made for this!” snarled Tansy as she mounted the steps to the fighting top of the wall. Both girls looked out and, for a moment, terror clutched at their hearts. The creature below them was roughly man-shaped, two arms, two legs, but it was nearly three meters tall, covered in white fur and snow seemed to fly out of the fur to infect the air somehow.
“Almighty Father,” whispered the Banshee beside Elaine as she crossed herself. “What is it?”
“Curse this dress!” swore Tansy as she finally got up the stairs. Inspired, Elaine pulled out her dagger and grabbed the hem of the offending garment.
“It's weakness is fire!” she shouted as she cut the dress down from full-skirted to just below Tansy's knees and then began to make strips. The gate began to tremble as the creature beat on it, the wood frosting over as the monster let out an unearthly roar of frustration. Men were shouting with agony as the monster rent them with its claws, while the soldiers desperately worked at keeping it from simply climbing over the wall.
Tansy turned to a group, frantically trying to stoke the fire they had lit under a cauldron of oil and shouted, “Never mind boiling it, pour it on him now!”
The men began to lift up the cauldron just as the Banshees got their arrow heads wrapped in the cloth Elaine had cut and dipped them into the stinking whale oil as it pitched over the side. The monster was covered in the oil, matting down its fur and drawing another roar. They lit the arrows in the fire and drew them back to their cheeks. “Hasta la vista, Baby!” whispered Elaine.
The arrows streaked away, leaving a trail of light and smoke marking their passing. At the same instant, Tansy lashed out with a wave of petrifying terror and for a split second, the creature froze, over come by the blast of emotion. The arrows sunk deep into the creatures chest, their fires igniting the oil soaked fur and it all but exploded in a roaring column of fire and black smoke. It flailed, blind, enraged and screaming its agony, but the only answer from the village was a hail of arrows, spears and rocks.
A final blast of cold, perhaps a death throe went out from the creature in a wave, then it collapsed into a shapeless mound of burning fur and oil. “Stand fast!” shouted Galan at the men looking to open the gate and rush out with swords in a fruitless display of manhood. “Let it burn!”
Elaine and Tansy shared a look. “Sorry about your dress,” the red head said sheepishly.
“Twas lost in good cause!” Aine, the tall leader of the Banshees declared with a grin as she laid a hand on Tansy's shoulder. Tansy smiled and nodded in agreement. “You've spirit, North Woman!” she continued. “Welcome to Morlock!”
From Oath Hill, next to its cross of wood, Coyote watched with satisfaction as the astral form of the demon burned and smouldered and he let a little smile pull at the corners of his black lips as he declared, “Oh, well done, students! Don't you agree, Headmistress?” His head turned to take in the form of Lady Astarte just alighting on the hill behind and next to him.
“Surprised I penetrated your little mana storm?” she asked, arms on her hips as she looked down on the spirit.
“My mana storm?” Coyote asked slyly. “You misjudge me, prideful human who calls herself a goddess. I have not created any mana storm, nor given any aid nor comfort to the guilty party. Quite the opposite, in point of fact.” He indicated the smoldering heap with his nose. “What I have done is draw our students here so that they could defeat the Astral half of the Demon that is attacking your school.” He paused dramatically, then, in a mockingly hurt tone added, “You're welcome.”
Lady Astarte crossed her arms over her bosom. “What are you playing at, Coyote? Why don't you ever just come out and tell us what you're trying to say instead of wrapping it up in riddles and deadly games?”
“And shatter your belief in Free Will?” the Spirit replied with a toothy grin.
“Every creature with intelligence to recognize itself has Free Will, Coyote,” Mrs. Carson shot back. “It is the basis of the Western Occult Tradition.”
“Yes, it is,” the other replied. “But I did not draw our students here to debate the foundations of magic with you, Betty Brant.”
Mrs. Carson did not allow herself to rise to the goading of the spirit with her oldest name. “Alright,” she said evenly. “Let's talk about that. What lesson are you teaching Tansy Walcutt and Elaine Nalley? Why bring them here?”
“Have you no sense of history, Betty Brant?” the other replied.
“Well, I did give myself a nickname after a Bronze Age Phoenician warrior goddess,” she said drolly.
The spirit actually seemed to appreciate the sarcasm. “Oh, touche! That's the spirit! You know, after centuries of trying, you Americans stand practically alone of my pupils who can laugh in the face of Death. And Death is stalking your school, Lady Astarte, he is looking for an old fugitive who escaped his embrace.”
“Do you think we're ignoring this threat?” she demanded. “That we are not overturning every pebble looking for this monster?”
“Ah,” Coyote replied, standing and beginning to walk. “Monsters hide where you least expect to find them,” he warned. Mrs. Carson began to follow him, starting a bit as suddenly the seasons changed from early spring to late summer and some part of her was a aware that years, not just seasons had changed. A hulk of a man who was leading a horse laden with tied cargo and a make shift bassinet from which cooed an infant, stood next to a cairn of stones with a monk who wore a tonsured head dressed in brown robes with a donkey. “On the material plane, what you humans laughingly call the 'real world' the monster who attacks your school was but the point of a demon hiding here in the Astral Realm. It was I who drew him into the March of Dreams so our students could lay him low.”
“So you've bragged,” Mrs Carson replied. “To what end?”
“Shh,” the spirit scolded as he gazed at the two men oblivious to them.
“Have you words of encouragement, Brother?” the man demanded of the Monk. “Our homes destroyed, loved ones planted like wheat in the cold earth for a bitter harvest, tell me again of the God who loves us so.”
“Laneth, was a beautiful daughter of Our Lord, Domnall,” the Monk replied softly as he stared at the cairn. “She loved this land, and you, and the Holy Church with a fierceness that humbles me. Encouragement? No, my son, I grieve her just as you. And just as you I have an intellect that consoles me that it was not the Hand of God that took this angel from us, but the guilt and blood of that crime lies on the hands of those raiders on the beach, staked out for the carrion eaters of the field. I do not blame the arrow, but the archer who sent it.”
Domnall clenched and unclenched his fist for a moment, “Is this how you acquire the secrets you're known for telling?” Mrs Carson demanded, but the spirit only chuckled. “Eavesdropping like a Peeping Tom?
“This?” it asked, cocking an ear at her. “No, no this is a gift. Look...”
The big man took a hefty looking box from the horse and presented it to the Monk. “Here,” he said, putting the box at the monk's feet. “There may come the day when my daughter will want to know of her mother. I don't dare risk these on the voyage back to Ireland. Will you keep them, Brother Rupert?”
“Laneth's journals?” the friar asked, running a hand over the box. “I will keep them with my life, my son.” He raised his hand to bless the larger man who finally, with a sigh lowered his head to allow it.
“Laneth kept a Journal?” Mrs Carson demanded archly.
“She was quite a scholar for the age,” the spirit replied. “Brother Rupert would return to his cell in the Monastery of Obar Dheathain, with poor Laneth's writings where they remain, to this day, misfiled in the archives as a box of personal effects.”
Elizabeth's eyes widened. “Do you realize what a treasure...?”
“Ten years worth of writings of a Pict girl on her life in Iron Age Scotland in Latin that can still be read?” Coyote asked, twitching an ear. “I imagine priceless sums it up. You're welcome.”
Somewhat flabbergasted, Mrs. Carson mastered herself enough to say, “Thank you,” to the spirit and genuinely meant it.
Coyote curled his tail around his paws as the priest settled the box on the back of his mule and turned north. “Kigatilik has been slain in the Astral. Now go finish him off and protect your...our...students. When next we meet, Elizabeth Carson, perhaps you will think more kindly of me. We are both teachers, after all.”
October 10th, 2007
Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
With a nervous glance over her shoulder to see if anyone was following her or paying her undue attention, Danica pushed on the 'crash bar' that unlatched the door between Crystal Hall and Schuster Hall, then slid into the dimly-lit hallway of the main administration and classroom building. Only the emergency lights were illuminated since the building wasn't in use.
The cat-girl rounded a corner to the main hallway in Schuster. Ahead of her, on her left, was the huge, stately entrance hall that looked somehow out of place in a high school; it seemed to have been plucked from a large English manor house and dropped into Schuster. Danica was tempted to detour to one of the large stuffed chairs so she could curl up in peace and quiet, but the pressing needs of Nature's call and fear that one of the bullies would find her alone convinced her to ignore the chairs and go straight to the girl's bathroom.
In the time since she'd started at Whateley, she'd gotten used to being Danica in public, a semi-normal girl, with only the administration and her fellow Poesies knowing her secret - that she was Danny most of the time and changed form and sex periodically. As many bullies as there were on campus, it was safest to not let anyone else know that Danny and Danica were one and the same. Now, though, her secret was out, and it hadn't taken the bullies long to make a target of her. The girls' restroom was relatively safe, she reasoned as the door shut behind her.
She started as she emerged from a stall; another girl was standing by one of the sinks. "Hi, Miki," Danica said uneasily.
"You ... lied to me," Miki Koizumi said, half accusingly and half sounding betrayed. "Desu ka?"
"I ... I wanted to tell you," Danica said with a wince. "I tried, but ...." Danica sighed, then turned directly to face the Japanese cat-girl. "I never told you that we weren't the same person."
Miki stared at Danica for several awkward moments, her expression guardedly neutral. "True," she finally admitted. "But ... you let me believe ...."
Danica nodded slowly. "I know."
"Lie of omission, it is called. No?"
Danica nodded, looking down in guilt and shame. "I'm sorry."
Miki's hand lifted Danica's chin as the Japanese girl looked eye-to-eye at Danica. "I ... saw how ... bullies ... acted. Understand your fear, I do."
"You aren't mad that I ... um ... didn't tell you before we ... um ...," Danica stammered, "you know?"
Miki gawked at Danica, then chuckled and swept the cat-girl into an embrace. "Why Amerikajinso hung up on ... gender?" She held Danica in a hug for a bit, then eased her back to arm's length, holding the American's shoulders. "You not watch anime much? Ranma 1/2?"
"I'm not familiar with it," Danica said hesitantly.
Miki's jaw dropped. "Have much to learn, you do. We start maybe with Tenchi. Or Ghost in Shell. Work way to Ranma 1/2."
Danica's gawked at Miki. "I ... I thought you'd be angry."
"Like Ranma. When you are Danny, we ...," the girl blushed a tiny bit. "When you are Danica, we go shopping!"
"Sh ... sh ... shopping?" Danica gasped in disbelief.
"You will like Space Battleship Yamato," Miki said with a smile. "Help you learn Japanese, it will."
Danica's eyes widened. "Learn Japanese? Why would I ...?"
Miki's smile broadened. "Like Japan, you will. We will be team - Kitty Boy and Kitty Girl when Danny. Kitty Girls when Danica. Like Ranma. We tell stories, help write new anime? Big audience in Japan. Famous, yes?" She took Danica's arm in hers, and led her out of the restroom.
A few girls were outside waiting, glaring at each other in turn, and then their attention turned to the door. There was an almost-instantaneous scramble as Amelie, then Peggy, and then two other Freshmen girls shoved their way, trying to get to Danica's side and push Miki and the others away.
"'E is my boyfriend!" Amelie's voice screeched angrily above the others as she clawed her way to Danica's side. "Leave 'im alone!"
Danica winced as the girls fought over her, even when she was in her female form. She was no longer surprised that girls were attracted to her Danny form; Danny had gotten in the habit of doing Tai Chi early every morning with several other Poesies under the supervision of Chou, and over a dozen girls from Dickinson and Whitman were often present, watching him with what he'd come to recognize as dreamy eyes. She didn't exercise in the Danica form, though, to avoid doing something that would link the two. But as Danica? He could understand some of the Poe girls - like Roslyn - but the other cottages? Was it because they had some hidden bisexuality, or because like Miki, they saw Danica as a potential friend to help them get an edge in getting Danny's attention.
No sooner had the group entered Crystal Hall than the girls abruptly halted, falling silent. Danica turned, only to discover that Roslyn was blocking the path of Danica's retinue, her arms crossed sternly and her foot tapping impatiently as she scowled at the girls.
"Danica is my responsibility as a Poe Resident Adviser," she said firmly.
Amelie frowned. "I believe that Elaine Nalley is 'is ... er, 'er ... RA," she countered, clutching Danica's arm more firmly and possessively.
"True," Roslyn retorted calmly, "but since she's not here, and since I'm the senior RA, Danica is my responsibility." She gently but insistently pushed herself between half of the girls and Danica. "Let's get you a nice cup of tea, and then we'll find a quiet place to talk about how we can help you with this new ... unpleasantness."
October 10th, 2007
Medawihla Reservation By the Whateley Academy Warding Wall
Kigatilik staggered as he felt the connection to his Astral self severed and destroyed. The loss of power and the defeat enraged the demon in a way few humans could comprehend. And yet there was fear now too, with his Astral Form destroyed he was vulnerable. The demon could feel the icy approach of Death becoming aware of his weakness and circling like a carrion bird, waiting for the inevitable. Kigatilik raged, the shaman was so close! He nearly had the ward defeated, he was nearly strong enough to cross it!
Now the First Shaman would live! The thought was an abomination and cost the wounded creature life as it lashed out out of reflex and pure rage.
And in that final outburst it felt something. Something called to it, something powerful and vile. The Shaman Hunter followed the wall that anchored the Warding between all the planes to the physical realm. There, in a loose brick, there was hidden the power of the Great Powers. Some one had indulged in forbidden knowledge, lusting for unspeakable power and had hidden their tools in the wall itself so as to turn the ward against itself and disguise what should be a beacon of power to those with eyes to see it. Kigatilik stumbled to the wall and reached out, feeling the will of the Old Ones. Here he would find sanctuary, here he would lick his wounds and heal.
And if the foolish human who dabbled with things beyond its comprehension should return, it would nourish Kigatilik and make him that much stronger.
October 10th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
“You look like you could use a cup of coffee,” preceded a soft, lovely voice and a mug of the aforementioned beverage being set on the table in front of her. Amelia Hartford looked up, a bit bleary eyed to see the somewhat overripe figure of Tansy's mother smiling down at her. “I don't believe we've met,” she said while holding out a hand Amelia shook. “Marissa Dawson.”
Amelia immediately saw her protegee in the face of Tansy’s mother, who had obviously been a breath taking beauty in her prime. “Thank you,” she replied as she reached for the sugar on the table and indicated a chair where both women could sit and still keep an eye on the two sleeping girls near them. “Please, sit down. Amelia Hartford.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Doctor Hartford,” the other returned as she took a sip of her own coffee. Amelia chuckled darkly.
“There was a time when I corrected everybody about that title,” she admitted with a self depreciating grin. “I'm not nearly so self important now, it's just Amelia, Ms. Dawson.”
“Marissa,” the blonde corrected. “I understand you've taken quite an interest in my Tansy, and I'm grateful.”
Hartford smiled and looked at the sleeping teen. “She reminded me a great deal of myself. Still does on occasion. I like to think I've given her good advice and steered her clear of some of the landmines I stepped on early in life.”
“She speaks very highly of you,” Marissa declared. “She feels that you have opened a number of doors for her, doors which will allow her to make a real difference...?” The question hung like a noose in the air for a long moment as Hartford sipped her coffee and coolly regarded her table mate. She had begun to note in Tansy a sharp, devious kind of mind behind those icy blue eyes. It was that, and her hunger to be on top of the social heap that had first drawn Amelia to her. After her research, she was convinced she had inherited it from her cut-throat father and what she knew of the girl's upbringing had only encouraged that line of thought.
Now, looking into the eyes Tansy had inherited, she saw that same intellect, seeing everything and giving nothing away hiding behind a Boston Brahmin geniality and gentry upbringing. “I like to think I've aided Tansy in building a solid foundation she can build upon, if she so chooses. She has impressed some very...influential...people who are very taken with her abilities.”
Marissa sat back a bit and traced a finger over the lip of her coffee mug. “I see. You know, there are people like that who can be very persuasive on a young, impressionable girl. Who would take advantage of the...naivete and recklessness of youth.”
Amelia smiled her disquieting smile. “Tansy has been resolute in her morals and ethics, an impression I believe she got from you, no matter how young she was at the time. She recognized her father for the petty, mean-spirited bully he is. We've talked at length about her views of right and wrong, lines she won't cross, and rules that sometimes need to be bent for...the betterment of all.”
“As an officer of the court, I would have to warn any client of mine the...dangers...and permanent repercussions of crossing some lines. And the...justice...I would pursue on those kinds of criminal masterminds who conspired to cross them.”
The smile didn't waiver. “I have been so advised. Your membership with the State Bar has been sorted out, then?”
“Judge Harold Masters,” she replied, casually dropping the name of the Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. “He's an old friend of the family and head of the membership standards committee of the BAR association. He was so kind as to issue a medical reinstatement of my license pending my reacquainting myself with the precedent decisions I've missed during my illness.”
“How is that going?”
“I was always a fast learner.”
Ms Hartford took a sip of her coffee. “It's a blessing for a family to have such...good...friends as Chief Justice Masters. The kinds of friends Tansy is making here, and with my help.”
“Dr. Hartford, let me speak plainly,” she said quietly. “There are not words to express how much my daughter means to me, nor to describe how unspeakable I would be in her defense.” Her eyes came up from the cup and they were as hard and cold as any hardened killer Amelia had ever worked with, or against. She smiled and let her own mask slip for a moment.
“Ms. Dawson,” Hartford replied in the same tone. “Anyone who harms your daughter will have both of us to deal with. And you are likely far more forgiving of such offenses than I would be. As an officer of the court, with lines you cannot cross. Rules...don't concern me.”
The expression on Marissa Dawson's face didn't change for several moments, then one of the coldest smiles Amelia had ever seen bloomed upon it. “Amelia, I believe you and I are going to be friends.”
Hartford's smile actually warmed a bit as she realized she had just met a kindred spirit, as it were, a glimpse of herself on the other side of the white hat/gray hat divide. And, even in that white hat, the unspoken warning that Marissa Dawson was capable of donning the blackest of head gear in defense of her own. “Marissa,” she told the other woman with genuine respect. “Nothing would please me more.”
“What wouldn't?” The voice of Tansy brought the immediate attention of the two women as they noticed the two girls sitting up in their pallet, rubbing sleep from their eyes. “Goodness,” remarked Tansy as she looked around. “What time is it?”
“High time for you to be out of bed, my lovely flower!” her mother exclaimed, sweeping her into a hug. “We've been worried!”
“Hey, look,” Elaine interrupted, with a gesture out of the Crystalline Wall they were next to. “It's stopped snowing!”
Ms Hartford smiled, then became business. Raising the radio to her lips she keyed it on. “Stan, Morrie? Get a crew together and head out to that pumping station. Give them whatever help they need to get our water restored.”
“Right away, Ms Hartford,” Stan's voice returned.
“Ms Hartford, Kayda and Wyatt...?” Elaine asked.
“Go,” she ordered. “And wait for the paramedics I'm sending at the Holbrook door!”
October 10th, 2007
The Nation's Teepee, Whateley Academy
The rustling outside woke the big senior. A moment later, something rubbed against the tepee, and then the flap was pulled back and a head stuck in. "Kayda? Wyatt?" a voice called from inside the hood of a parka.
"Lanie?" Wyatt responded, recognizing the voice instantly.
The redhead rushed into the tepee, followed closely by Tansy. "Oh, thank God you're okay! We were so worried!" The two girls hugged him as he sat up to receive their tearful embrace. After a few moments, during which Lanie and Tansy clung desperately to the big Alaskan and a couple of other parka-clad figures climbed through the opening, Lanie looked down at Kayda. "Is she okay?" she practically demanded of one of the figures.
Dr. Tenent, having come into the tepee behind Lanie, looked up from examining Kayda. "She's very hypothermic, and she probably has a bit of frostbite," she said. "She needs to get to Doyle right away." She looked at Wyatt. "You, too."
"I'm okay," Wyatt protested.
"Ah'm the doctor," Ophelia Tenent countered sharply, "and Ah'll make the diagnoses!"
"How long?" Wyatt asked simply, his eyes bleary and tired from too long an ordeal.
"Almost two days," Lanie said. "Wyatt Cody," she squared her shoulders to him and put on a stern expression, "you had us worried half to death! Don't you ever do something like this again, or Ah swear, Ah'll ...."
The big senior, grinning, interrupted her with a kiss, and then repeated the smooch with Tansy. When they broke, the girls' anger had abated significantly.
October 10th, 2007
Wallachia One, BBJ 747-8 39,000 Feet above the Gulf of St. Lawrence
“Your highness?” Lord Paramount looked up from his laptop screen and the collection of stock research and speculation he was in the middle of to take in the face of Gregor, his personal secretary leaning in the doorway of his office.
The 747 he was riding in was an indulgence, one of the largest aircraft ever built and decorated lavishly, but tastefully as his personal air craft and the State Conveyance for the Prince of Wallachia. It was the state of the art as far as Boeing's Business Jet line went, retrofit with a host of upgrades that usually were only fitted to Boeing's military aircraft. “Yes, Gregor?”
“Doctor Hartford is holding for you, your highness. Line one.”
Paramount's face brightened immediately. “Thank you, Gregor. See that I'm not disturbed while I take this call.”
“Certainly, your highness.”
The door quietly closed as Fredrick Paramount picked up the line. “Amelia, my darling, you have me worried! What is going on?”
Her voice was welcome in his ear. “I am sorry, beloved, this storm has played hell with our communications. We lost water to the school, the cell tower is down, ugh, it's been a nightmare. Where are you? It took forever for me to be routed and, what is that noise in the background? Are you on a plane?”
He grinned and leaned back in the chair. “Guilty as charged. When I saw the weather and you became unreachable, well, my Princely virtues over came me and I mounted my faithful charger...er...airplane to your rescue.”
“Fredrick...I...I'm touched...” she stammered and her voice betrayed just how emotional his casual jest had made her.
“Well, all's well that ends well,” he said, purposefully not making a comment on her emotions. “As I am in the neighborhood, perhaps you will do me the honor of dinner? We'll be landing in about forty minutes I think.”
“You shameless, smooth talking flatterer,” she accused. “This is all just to get me into your bed so you can have your wicked way with me.”
“How well you know me,” he chuckled, not in the least phased. “Are you complaining?”
“Not in the least!” she purred. “Come quickly my prince, I look forward to making your quest a success...”
“Minx,” he accused.
“Mink,” she countered. “They make love for hours.”
“I'll just go and inquire with the pilot if he can urge a few more knots out of this bird.”
“I'll be waiting...”
Lord Paramount hung up the phone, chuckling to himself as he stood and began to meander to the cockpit to speak with his pilot. As always, this flight was shaping up to be very worth the trip.
October 10th, 2007
ICU 2 Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
"So what happened?" Lanie asked as she and Tansy sat beside Wyatt's bed in Doyle. Dr. Tenent had invoked her supreme authority as doctor to keep him overnight for observation, despite his protestations that he was okay.
"We talked. We ... cuddled ... to stay warm."
"What else?" Tansy sounded like she was certain that there was more to the story than he was telling her.
Wyatt leaned forward, catching the back of Lanie's head with one of his beefy paws and pulling her toward his waiting lips. After another quite prolonged and passionate kisses, he let her sit up again, then repeated the maneuver with the blonde exemplar, even though she was a little breathless.
"Ah noticed you didn't answer."
"If Kayda wants you to know what we talked about," he said with a sly smile, "she'll tell you." He saw her scowl. "You know, your soul-sister is really a very special girl. I understand why you love her more than a sister, just like she loves you."
Lanie's eyes bulged a bit at what he'd said. "What did she tell you?"
"Ask her." Wyatt smiled at his fiancée. "Now why don't you run down to see how your mitaka is doing? I'm sure it'll do her heart good to know her soul sister is so concerned about her."
Reluctantly, Lanie nodded and then padded to the door, pausing to glance once more at the big senior who'd so thoroughly stolen her heart. With a last smile directed his way, she walked out the door.
In the bed, Wyatt watched her go. "It's no wonder she loves Lanie," he said with a smile.
Tansy smiled at the senior. "Yeah. Lanie is a very special girl."
"Don't sell yourself short," Wyatt said. "How is it I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by special women?"
“God only knows,” she teased. “You certainly don't deserve it!” Tansy smirked and half-chuckled.
“What?” Wyatt asked, picking up on her mild amusement.
“She's probably worried about the same thing I am,” the blonde replied with a smirk.
“And that is?” Wyatt asked cautiously.
“Are we going to have to plan on a much bigger bed?” Tansy deadpanned, arching an eyebrow.
Wyatt's jaw dropped in astonishment before he noticed the amused twinkle in the blonde's eye. “You...!” He gently chided, reaching out and tussling her hair playfully.
October 10th, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
“So, I have a work crew supervised by Stan and Morrie out at the pumping station,” Amelia told her boss as she sat behind her desk going over the reports of the various departments. “They had service restored by lunch and the construction gang is building a temporary shelter over the works to keep it out of the weather until the permanent structure is rebuilt. Even wrangled a discount on our water bill for services rendered.”
“Outstanding,” Carson complimented as she signed the documents and moved them into her 'Out' bin. “The students are back in their regular dorms?”
“Yes, we'll be back to regular schedules tomorrow,” Hartford concluded. “How did your 'Mystic Mumbo-Jumbo go?”
The Headmistress gave her friend a glance over the top of her glasses, but was amused, none the less. “Quite productively, actually. Why Coyote's taken such an interest in us remains a mystery, but such is the nature of spirits of his...class? For want of a better word. He even gave us an interesting clue vis-a-vis our Mythos problem child. Up until now we've assumed we were looking for a student, someone foolishly dabbling in forbidden knowledge whether for thrill, lust for power or simply teenage stupidity. But Coyote informed me this...monster...is a fugitive from Death itself.”
“Aren't we all until the Grim Reaper catches us?” Amelia asked philosophically. Mrs. Carson leaned back in her chair and took off her glasses to rub her nose.
“Not in the sense Coyote meant,” she replied. “Amelia, I think we're looking for an adult that is posing as a student. Someone who should already be dead and has either reincarnated himself or otherwise turned back the hands of time. And anyone capable of doing that is far more dangerous than we previously have planned on.”
“Can you do that? Revert back to a child or...?”
“There are...rituals...rumored whispers of the desperation of cowards unable to face their final days that can remove the anchor of a soul to the Hallow of its body.”
“What good...” started Amelia, then she blanched as her mind caught up with her mouth. “Dear God...”
Carson nodded. “Free of his old hallow, this monster could have subsumed a child, murdered their soul and assumed their life. Its the ultimate disguise.”
“He...he could be a child in body but...”
“Exactly.” The Headmistress steepled her fingers. “I wish it were a stupid kid playing with things they don't understand. That would make our task much easier. Coyote has done us a favor by opening our eyes to a much greater threat. How is Elyzia coming along?
“Last I heard she had found traces of the demon you spoke of at the Warding Wall on the west side of the Campus, but they just stop there. She's expanding her search, and her next check in is in thirty minutes.”
“I want you to call a staff meeting of the magic department,” Carson ordered. “This thing could be plotting a move for Parent's day. We need to reconsider our approach in light of this new information.”
Hartford paused on her way out the door and turned back to the woman who had had such an impact on her life to find Elizabeth Carson smiling at her. “Make it for tomorrow. Go enjoy your dinner with Fredrick.”
Amelia smiled. A great part of the awe she held for Elizabeth Carson was that for all her larger than life, legendary status, she never forgot to be a person. She had a life outside of the life, and made sure her subordinates did too. “Thank you, Liz.”
October 10th, 2007
Room 210, Poe Cottage
Elaine fished her laptop out of her book bag and set it on the docking station on her desk. That accomplished, she shed the now particularly dirty school uniform and banished it to the dirty clothes hamper at the foot of her bed to change into a pair of jeans and a T-Shirt and immediately felt more comfortable. She swiped her finger over the reader built into the palm rest of the lap top and it filled in her credentials while she fetched a can of Coke from her fridge and opened it.
Before she could call up her current writing project, a knock at the door interrupted. Paying for the room, she thought to herself. Out loud, she called, “Come in.”
The door opened and revealed the last person Elaine expected to see, Rosalyn 'Blackrose' Dekkard. “Hey, got a minute?”
“Mi casa es su casa,” Elaine replied, gesturing at the chair next to her desk. “Coke?”
“No, thanks,” the other said glumly and a little twinge of jealousy in her tone of voice. “I'm not an exemplar and they make me bloat.”
“Sorry,” she started, but the other waved her off. “What can Ah do for you?”
“Well, I wanted to give you a heads up about Danny Franks.” Elaine frowned. “While you were asleep, Dump Truck saw her change into girl form and outted her to the whole school.”
“Ah saw,” she protested. “Steve...”
Rosalyn smiled. “Yeah, good on your brother. If Marty wasn't buttering his biscuit I would have to give him a toss just on the principal of him being a decent human being.”
Elaine laughed. “You don't know him that well.”
For a moment, Rosalyn was her predatory self. “Maybe Marty will share and I can get to know him biblically.”
“Ew!” exclaimed the red head, but the playfulness of Rosalyn had left as quickly as it arrived. “I think you need to keep an eye on Danny. He...she...ugh, we need more pronouns! Danny is really shook up over it. Maybe to the point...of...self harm,” she finally managed to say.
“That bad?” Elaine asked, with real worry. The brunette shrugged.
“I don't know. I mean, you think these Kansas farm boys are indestructible, then they're burying Superman, ya know?” Her eyes looked away for a moment, then came back. “He's having a rough time about it. I'm not sure it couldn't get to be too much.”
“Ah'll watch him,” Elaine affirmed. “Thanks for the heads up.”
She shrugged. “No worries.” She stood and stretched. “So, you and Tansy the “Ice Queen', eh? Who would have thought! We going to finally see that famed blonde muff in the hot tub social next month?”
Lanie smiled and shrugged. “Ya never know. And Tansy is...”
Rosalyn made a dismissive gesture. “Hey, don't feel the need to defend who floats your boat. You're into bad girls, not my place to wag a finger. I could use some help wrangling if you're overcome with the desire to help out. And...” she was interrupted by a knock at the door. With a glance at Lanie for permission, she turned and opened it. “Speak of the devil and she appears! How are you, Tansy?”
“Taken,” the other replied with a comfort and sass that brought a smile to Elaine's face. Looking around Rosalyn, she asked Elaine, “Busy?”
“Need a third wheel?” Cooed Rosalyn, but she was already making her way past Tansy to the door.
“Good night, Rosalyn,” Elaine told her as Tansy shut the door. “What brings you by, mah love?”
“Greeks bearing gifts,” the other said, taking the bundle out from under her arm and presenting it. “A teleport courier brought me this.”
With a confused frown, Elaine took the bundle, finding it to be a newspaper. Specifically, it was the evening edition of that day's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The front page was a color picture of a half dozen grim faced policemen in SWAT gear leading an older, balding man in handcuffs away. His suit was much ruffled and there was blood from a split lip on his shirt. The man was sobbing uncontrollably.
Hooper Arrested For Child Porn! The headline blared. Then underneath, Secretary of State discovered to possess massive cache of child pornography in Ethics Probe.
Elaine stared at the picture and felt the world begin to spin. As dizziness and nausea kicked in, she sank back into her chair, her hands shaking. “Merry Christmas,” Tansy whispered as she sat in the chair next to her. Elaine's unnaturally green eyes shot up to stare at her over the paper.
“Wh...what are you telling me, baby?” She whispered. “Did you...?”
“I'm told he was already under investigation,” the blonde whispered conspiratorially. “I...know people. People my father has used to solve...problems for him...”
“Tansy, what have you done?”
The blonde reached out and took Elaine's hands. “I...he hurt you. And I won't stand for that. The GBI was already looking at him and I...” She swallowed. “I paid daddies men to give them something to find. Something that would make sure he got what was coming to him.”
A tear escaped Elaine's eye and rolled down her cheek. Tansy half scrambled half fell out of the chair to kneel at her feet. “Don't be mad, baby! I did it for you! He...”
“Oh, Tansy, baby...Ah...”
Elaine's tears were joined by a flood from Tansy's blue eyes. “You...you are practically the only friend I have ever had! The only person who loved me; besides my mom! And he hurt you and your family and I won't allow that! I...”
Lanie's hands came up and cupped the cheeks of Tansy as they half-pulled, half-guided her face up. The girls lips met and their tongues slowly danced and intertwined for a small eternity. Sighing as they parted, Lanie whispered, “Oh my beloved, this is so wrong. And...and...”
“I did it for you,” Tansy whispered, staring into her eyes. “I love you, Elaine.”
“Ah...Ah should be angry,” she said, her whole body shaking. She put the newspaper on her desk and held Tansy's hands as she stared at it. “Ah should tell you you should never have done this. But, God save me, all Ah can think about is that Ah hope this monster is raped every day in prison for the rest of his God Damned LIFE! And when he's dead Ah hope he burns in hell being raped for eternity!”
A weak little smile pulled at the corner of Tansy's lips. “You...you're not mad?”
“Oh, baby, if this gets out...”
“Daddy has used these men for years and never been caught.”
“Tansy that...it...it's wrong...”
“I won't let anyone hurt you!”
The girls kissed again, and as Elaine stared into Tansy's eyes, feeling the staggering intense emotion through their bond, the need she had to protect Elaine; and Elaine began to comprehend the blonde's desperate need to please her. “Never again, baby...” she managed as the two girls embraced and kissed.
“Never,” Tansy promised as they clung together. “I promise...”
“I love you....” Lanie wasn't sure where her or Tansy's clothes had gone, and just as quickly stopped caring as she kissed the girl who had loved her enough to do this. The lights went out and the monitor turned off, seemingly of their own accords, but neither girl needed them. Thank you, my love! Thank you!
She wanted to disapprove, but she couldn't. Elaine knew she should scold Tansy, but she didn't. She knew she shouldn't be happy about she had done, but she was. She was fiercely glad he would suffer, and there was nothing else to do but live with it.
October 12th, 2007
Archives, Aberdeen Monastery, Aberdeen, Scotland
“Waste of time if you ask me,” the Caretaker opined for the fifth time as he rummaged through a ring of keys before a wrought iron gate. He was an old, nearly toothless codger, almost a caricature from a film in workman's coveralls that clashed with the monastic habit of the younger man with him. Through the gate, Brother Adam Bruce could see the stairs that curved down, modern for the first three, then cut stone that was much older further down. The electricity wires ran in pipe conduits bolted directly to the wall to similar, rough fixtures that had been added centuries after the passage had been carved.
With a rattle of keys and the squeal of a hinge in want of grease straight from a horror movie, the gate opened. The Caretaker threw a massive lever next to a box set on the wall that was itself beside a wrought iron torch and holder that was who knew how old. The breaker thrown, the lights came on and the two men carefully descended the stairs. “Nothing before the Reformation is in the computer,” the older man complained as they followed the stairs around and below, coming out in a space that was more cavern than building. It was lit overhead by hanging florescent tubes and showed the space had been organized with massive racks of storage lockers.
The stairs let out next to a standing desk and a series of large, leather bound books arranged in shelves. The cavern was dry and cool, perfect for the preservation of things, which was likely why it was chosen. The monastery had been in the area for centuries, to the point that no one was exactly sure how long and it had been dated by its records and the mentions of it in other Church documents. Long before the current city around it was being called Aberdeen. “What was the name, Friar?” the Caretaker asked.
“Brother Rupertus Calvert,” the Monk replied. “Eighth Century.”
The older man began to scan the shelves. “They reorganized most of this during the Blitz,” the old Codger remarked as he followed his fingers over the books. “Rushed job, ill done if you want my opinion...Ah, here.”
He pulled the book and laid it out on the desk. It was a ledger in ball point pen in blue ink that was much faded. “My eyes aren't what they were,” the Caretaker muttered, removing a magnifying glass from a pocket of the coveralls and scanning the pages. “Ah, here, Rupertus Calvert, OSB, Abbot. Eh, personal effects, bin 581.” Once more the keys were searched and a lock box Brother Bruce hadn't noticed was opened.
The key in hand, the two set off, wandering through the rows of lockers that seemed endless. Finally the Caretaker stopped and opened the padlock with the key he had removed from the lock box. The cabinet opened to reveal a small space, about three feet deep and six high with shelves along the back wall. There was a hand carved wooden cross, a rosary of polished stones with a pewter Celtic cross hanging from it. The other item in the locker was a wooden chest that had a stag carved on one end, a doe on the other and in the front, in Blackletter were two lines:
“What do you make of that?” the Caretaker demanded.
“Dòchassic,” Brother Bruce muttered to himself as he entered the locker. “That's almost like Gaelic. Dòchas, maybe?”
“Hope,” the Monk informed him. He snapped his fingers. “Sacred Mother, it's a Hope Chest! And Gaelic must have grown out of Pictish. We had thought...”
He slowly lifted the lid and was struck dumb as the light fell on the contents of the chest and Brother Bruce's heart began to thunder in his chest. Just as Dr Carson had said, it was full of scrolls and bound, illuminated Texts. Quickly pulling on the white gloves he had brought with him, he gently removed the book and carefully opened it, his eyes falling on the neat, precise handwriting and the heavy gothic script with its older Latin filling the page. From the Latin rose up to his mind Argued with father today and Aine says I was born with a bow in my hand... He prayed for God to find him worthy of the discovery he had been led to. The entries were even dated.
“Get a cart,” Brother Bruce ordered quietly as he reverently gazed at the treasure he held in his hand. It would take some time to translate this older version of Latin, but already there was a title floating in the back of his mind.
Memoirs of A Banshee