Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 4)

Fire-Juggling
Fire Juggling by Ent-Reps

And we’re back to our regular scheduled story! If you have no idea what I’m talking about… I wanted to write a bit of a longer story, since most of my stories had been around 1000 to max. 2000 words, so I wanted to challenge myself. Which turned into this thing, currently 8435 words and counting! I kept wondering this week why it seemed to take so long, it felt like the scene kept stretching I wondered why. Well, because this week I wrote over 2700 words…. woops… So if you haven’t started reading yet, start here!

This week we’re visiting the magical nightclub called Unveiled and we’ll find out some things about our victim… {dun dun dunnnn} Mostly though, it was an excuse for me to write about fire performing and beautiful music {and I regret nothing!} So enjoy, and make sure to check out the notes below the story a little more in-depth knowledge on what inspired part 4!

 

The club was not a lot to look at from the outside. A concrete cube in the middle of the industrial district with ‘Unveiled’ above the door in a fancy cursive script with gold backlighting. Bolts of sheer fabric hung on both sides next to the entrance. If not for the warm light spilling out of the door and the huge looking guys standing next to it, you might have never known it was a club. And a pricey one at that.

Unveiled was one of those places that claimed to give you a glance of what life had been like beyond the veil. Decadent, exotic foods and sensual shows pulled in crowds of both humans and non-humans every night. The humans coming to see the magic and power of the supernatural, the non-humans coming to see what their ancestors may have lived like or, for those who lived beyond a hundred years, to reminisce on years gone by. I had the feeling that this was nothing like life used to be Beyond the Veil, unless you were nobility of course, but it didn’t seem to matter. Unveiled had a waiting list of two weeks.

Luckily a flash of a badge was enough for the bouncers to wave us through.

“Good evening and welcome to Unveiled, do you have a reservation?” A slim woman with soft pink hair greeted us from behind her hostess podium. The hair was a dead giveaway that she was a Fae of some kind. The floral colour usually meaning pixie. It made sense, having someone who could gauge the emotions of others and influence them if needed right at the entrance. No doubt it stopped a lot of trouble before it even started.

I held my badge up for her to see. I gestured to Violet standing next to me, badge also in hand. “Detectives Bluebell and Harper, SCPD. We need to speak to Pyra.”

The Maitre ‘D looked unruffled as she inspected our badges. “One moment please,” she said when she was satisfied. She touched an elegant looking brooch and turned away, speaking a few words too soft for me to hear. After a moment she turned back. “Pyra is about to take the stage, you will be able to talk to her after her performance. I am to show you a table, the manager will be with you in a moment. If you would follow me.” She gestured us further inside and showed us to a table in the middle of the club.

The interior was warm and inviting. The same sheer fabric that was outside lined the walls, the gold shimmering slightly in the candlelight. At the end of the club sat the stage, the sides lined with lush green climbing vines like curtains. Round tables and chairs of a light wood stood facing the stage, the crystal candleholders filled with moss green candles scattered rainbows on the floor. Water was tinkling somewhere to my right, a fountain in the middle of a nightclub.

A skylight covered most of the ceiling, the night sky shining through it tinged purple. There were constellations I recognized from reading about the Veil in high school. Unveiled apparently had a spelled ceiling that showed the sky on the other side of the Veil. It really as almost like stepping into another world with all its golds and greens and twisted woods. The entire scene was beautiful and now, standing here, I finally understood the appeal.

We sat down at our table and a moment later a waitress, wearing a dress that looked like it was made from real leaves, put down two pink and sparkly drinks.

“Oh we don’t –“ I started.

“It’s just lemonade, Detective. On the house,” A man in a gold suit said as he approached our table.

His smooth, coffee-coloured skin almost seemed to glow against the soft shimmer of the gold fabric. Long, red-blond hair fell over his shoulders, almost to his waist, his pointed ears sticking out of the thick strands. His smile was wide and warm, if a little bit smug. He was gorgeous and he knew it. “Good evening,” he greeted, offering a small bow, “my name is Setahl Dahirae, I am the owner of this establishment. How may I be of assistance?”

We both took out our badges again, holding them up for the Fae to see. Detectives Harper and Bluebell,” I repeated, “we need to speak to one of your performers, Pyra.”

“I see. And what is it that you think Bryni has done?”

“It is part of an ongoing investigation, I can’t comment on that,” I told him.

His smile grew. “You are both homicide detectives, are you not?” He gestured towards where our badges were a moment ago. “Surely I have a right to know if one of my employees committed such a crime?”

I got the feeling he wasn’t really an asshole, not like other hot-shot business owners trying to find out information about an open case. There was a hint of worry in his amber eyes. Whether that was because our suspect was his friend or because it endangered his club I didn’t know. There was something else too, a mischievous twinkle that made me think he was trying to get a rise out of me.

I gave him my sweetest smile. “No, you don’t.”

He clutched at his heart dramatically. “You wound me, my lady! I am only trying to protect my family and my livelihood.”

“I’m sure your livelihood will survive,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“If there is something we feel you should know, we will tell you, mister Dahirae,” Violet assured him, sending a glare my way. “You’re club is beautiful.”

He beamed at her words. “Thank you, thank you. Please, enjoy your stay and know that you are always welcome at Unveiled.” He gestured towards the drinks. “I hope you find them as appealing as this conversation has been. Have a good evening.” With a small bow, he backed away from our table and made his way back over to the bar.

Violet picked up her fizzy drink and took a sip. “It’s delicious.” She said happily.

I was a little more cautious, sniffing it first. It indeed did not smell like alcohol, it smelled fruity and sweet. “It’s pink,” I complained, it just made Violet grin wider.

“It’s not going to bite you. Just try it.”

I took a small sip. It tasted good but holy hydrangea that stuff was sweet.

Violet burst out laughing next to me, no doubt reading my face. “It reminds me of the soup my gran used to make.”

“You ate this stuff for soup?” I asked, incredulous, which just set Violet off again. I was suddenly glad we always ordered in when we ate together, I’m not sure I could stomach Pixie cuisine.

“So,” Violet said innocently when she stopped giggling, “the manager is pretty cute.”

“Last time I checked you only like women.” Maybe if I feigned ignorance, this conversation wouldn’t go where I was afraid it would go.

She nudged my shoulder. “Not for me, for you. He was totally flirting with you.”

Aaaaand here we go.

She gave me a disappointed look. “Did you really have to be so rude?”

“You know you sound like my mother when you say that.”

“Your mother is a wise woman.” She saluted me with her pink sugary monstrosity and took another sip. “You could do a whole lot worse you know.” She looked behind us towards the bar. “A lot worse.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Not interested. How could a mage make herself smell like a ‘wolf?”

“You’re not subtle.” She scolded.

“I’m not trying to be subtle, now answer the question.”

“With magic?” she asked, looking towards the still empty stage.

I shook my head. “The ‘wolves would have smelled that. It would have to be some other way, like packbonds gone wrong, wearing each other’s clothes, dousing yourself in ‘wolf blood –.”

Violet looked up at that one. I held up my hands. “Just random ideas.” I defended.

“Your random ideas worry me sometimes. Although, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing we’ve seen. Hell, not even the weirdest thing we’ve seen this year.”

I thought of Drayce Andvari’s mummified corpse. His wide open eyes and shock-white hair and tried not to shiver.

The lights dimmed, signalling that the show was about to begin. The evening crowd hushed as a man walked onto the stage. He was wearing a simple dark brown tank top and linen pants, a short fiery red vest stopping just short of his waist. Brown curly hair fell in loose waves to his shoulders, softening his sharp features.

As he sat down on the chair on the left side of the podium, he set an instrument that looked like something between a violin and a cello against his shoulder. First he plucked a few strings and tapped against the wood to set a simple beat, repeating it with a small machine at his feet. Then he set his bow to string. A beautiful and haunting melody started, the sound not something I’d heard from a cello before. I could see this being played around a fire, a pipe with wild dagga flower going from hand to hand. People slowly twirling and dancing in the clearing nearby, caravans standing in a loose circle around them.

A young woman walked slowly onto the stage. Her braided hair started with a deep black at the roots and went from red to a bright orange at the tip, it looked like fire, which was, I assumed, the entire point. She wore a jagged black skirt that reached just below her thigh, leaving her long legs and feet bare. Her short top was decorated with delicate embroidery and beading which shimmered in the candle light. A collection of thin gold and bronze chains wrapped around her like a harness, swaying gently as she moved.

Slowly she spread her arms wide, revealing fans made from metal wire. Without warning the tips burst into flame causing the crowd, me included, to gasp at the sudden flare of brightness. I’d never even seen her lips move.

Mages needed conduits for their magic for it to work. Usually, this was a combination of symbols, herbs and words all dedicated to the same purpose. For a Fire mage to work magic without speaking was, to put it lightly, impressive. It also raised my doubts if Pyra was the woman we were looking for. If she was attuned to her element, this capable with her magic, there was no way that she wouldn’t have just put Koppenhaver on fire if she wanted him dead. Unless of course not using fire at all was an attempt to put us on the wrong track, but I doubted it.

Her body curved and bowed to the music, the fire casting a warm light on her pale skin. The movements were sensual and mesmerizing, set off with a tiny rush of adrenaline every time her fire flared. Her hips and her fire seemed to sway in the same tempo, the ghostly melody of the cello falling and rising with the flames.

Nobody seemed unaffected and for the next half hour we watched as she danced, some sort of fusion between belly dance and ballet, and used her magic to make flames dance with her. Hoops, fans, a staff, all were used and all were set alight without a single word. At the height of the performance, two huge fiery wings spread out behind her, casting her slight frame in a stark silhouette against the golden light.

I’d seen mages perform before, but never had I seen someone use their talents like this before, like art. Pyra seemed to be made of fire, the flames an extension of herself, like the man’s music was an extension of himself. Harmony. No wonder they were one of the most popular acts at Unveiled, it was truly a sight to behold.

As the show drew to a close she spread her arms wide and bowed deep, the crowd, including us, standing up to give them a standing ovation. They stood next to each other for a moment, revelling in the applause before bowing one last time and making their way off stage.

Before we could decide whether to sit back down for a moment or to go to the dressing room immediately the waitress from before stood by our table.

“Detectives, if you would follow me?”

She led us through a series of hallways into a brightly lit room. Racks with clothes lined one wall, mirrors with lights lined the other. Both Bryni and what I now saw had to be her brother were both here, still in their performance outfits. They both looked up as we entered, seeming curious but annoyed that we interrupted their downtime. They looked alike, in the stark lights of the changing room. They had the same cheekbones, the same facial structure, but Bryni’s feminine curves softened the sharpness that seemed to run in this family.

Again, Violet and I pulled out our badges, flipping them open and holding them up. “Detectives Bluebell and Harper, SCPD Violent Crimes and Homicide division. Are you Bryni Hugh?” I asked her as she started pulling on a soft looking silk robe.

“I’m Bryni, this is my brother Fintan. What can we help you with, Detectives?” She seemed apprehensive, but in the way most people react when you have two homicide detectives wanting to ask you some questions.

I really didn’t think this was the pair we were looking for, but maybe they could tell us a little more about our victim. “Does the name Donald Koppenhaver mean anything to either of you?”

The siblings looked at each other, but no sign of recognition crossed their faces. “No.” They answered in unison. “Should it?” Bryni asked.

“You’ve had a run-in with him before,” Violet started as she pulled out a picture, “left him with quite a scar.”

Bryni took the picture from Violet’s hand, her face hardening as she recognized Koppenhaver’s face. “Look, I don’t know what he’s telling you, but the creep totally had it coming.” She waved the picture around in an irritated wave of her arm.

“He came on to you?” I asked.

“Came on to me? Is that what he said?” she let out a humourless laugh, “that asshole fucking assaulted me!”

Fintan took this moment to rip the photo from her hands and study it, letting out a low growl. “It’s true,” he started, “they guy was lucky I wasn’t here that day or I would have ripped his throat out.”

“Well, that’s exactly what happened to him last night,” I said, checking their faces for any kind of reaction. There was shock and a hint of relief, but no guilt and no pride. Emotions that you might expect from people capable of such a vicious murder.

“And you think we had anything to do with it?” Bryni paused for a moment. “Look, I’m not sad he’s no longer out there, the guy was a total douchebag. Three years ago he tried to force himself onto one of the other performers, a Siren named Claire Hidgins. She reported it, three days later he corners her by her car, next thing we know, she drops all charges. I swear, he did something to her. She left the state to be away from that guy. When he tried to do something to me a few weeks later, I fought him off.” There was a hint of pride in her eyes, but mostly she just looked young and vulnerable. “Setahl tossed him to the street and he’s never been back since.”

“Setahl and Claire can confirm this?” I asked, writing Claire’s name down so Kravitz could look into it later. I waited for her nod to continue. “And where were you both last night between midnight and two?”

“Look the guy may have deserved it, but we’re no killers,” Fintan spoke up, “Besides, we were here performing ‘til eleven and after that we stayed to work on our new act. We went home around three o’clock. Setahl stayed to listen, you can ask him.”

We were going to ask him about Koppenhaver anyway, but I didn’t think we needed to check the alibi. The siblings weren’t our killers. From the way Violet was looking at me she didn’t think so either. We just lost our two suspects but if Koppenhaver really was the kind of man Bryni and Fintan believed he was, a whole new pool of suspect just opened up.

So there you have it, part 4 of our monster story! I started watching Grimm recently {still haven’t decided if I like it or not…} and in the first season there is a character who is also a fire juggler. I absolutely loved the way she moved and the idea of a supernatural creature with an affinity to fire to be a performer like this. Thus Pyra was born.

I was listening to one of my favourite artists, Adam Hurst while writing part 3 of this story. While listening I thought, this would be perfect to do a slow belly dance/fire fan performance to. It just fit too well. I already knew I needed Fintan to be there, so congrats Finny, you get a cello! If you’re not familiar with Adam’s music I do suggest you check it out, he’s amazing. I reckoned the numbers Fintan played would be Ritual as his first song {since this is also the first song I ever heard of him, and instantly fell in love with the haunting melody}, and Hidden Door for Pyra’s first dance. I love it!

Advertisements

Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 3)

police-badge
Police Badge through Frontpagemag

Here we are again, with part 3 of the story! If you’re thinking ‘huh, what story?’ please start here! It’s a bit shorter this time, I had some time off of work and took a week to recharge my batteries and do as little as possible. It was wonderful and very much needed. Now, onto the story!

 

“Tell me you have something for me, Kravitz,” I called out as we walked into the Violent Crimes and Homicide division of the SCPD, finally sipping my well-deserved coffee. The precinct of the Sweetlake City Police Department was located in the heart of the city. Just outside the shopping district and next to the Firehouse, our division looked out on the shoppers swarming around like ants on one side, the Cinnabon sign right across from the station a constant temptation. The other side looked out on a tiny bit of green landscaping bordering the Firehouse’s yard where, if we were lucky, the firefighters would be running drills and walking around shirtless.Don’t judge.

Deputy Malik Kravitz walked towards us, a thin file in his hand. A curl of fresh ink peeked out from under his collar, the black soft against his dark skin.

“New tattoo?” I asked when he got close enough. Kravitz was a hundred percent human, like me, but he was one of those people who wanted to be more. A lot of humans stuck to just two or three small ones, magical tattoos for a touch of luck, healing a little bit faster, being able to activate a few of the devices that required magic to work. Kravitz wasn’t happy with just two or three though, he really wanted to find out the limits of his bought magic. In the two years that he’d been assigned to our department, this was his fifth tattoo. That I knew of.

“You’re going to run out of space if you keep going.”

“That’s the plan, I have to do something if I want to keep up with people like Flowergirl over here.” He said with no small amount of snark, jerking his head towards Violet. Violet just rolled her eyes as she always did at his nickname. “One day, T.J.” Kravitz continued, “one day you’re going to get over your fear of needles and I’ll take you to Dean’s. Don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand the entire time,” he said with a wink.

I wasn’t afraid of needles, I just didn’t feel the need to have magic forced under my skin just so some things could become more convenient. I liked being just human. Kravitz knew this, but we’d been bantering back and forth about it ever since he joined our division. He was all easy smiles and good-natured sarcasm. It was why we all worked so well together. “In your sad and lonely dreams, Kravitz,” I said, grinning.

He placed the hand holding the file over his heart. “You wound me.”

“You’ll live. Now, tell me what you found.”

He held up the file again. “Donald Koppenhaver, human, age 52, moved to Sweetlake City three years ago from Greensboro, North Carolina. Works for the DMV, no immediate family in the area. He has a mother in a retirement home in Florida. Local police have been contacted, they’ll notify her.”

I held out my hand. “Any priors?” Kravitz handed the file over and I flipped it open, staring at the picture of Koppenhaver for a moment. He didn’t look like anything special, his face a bit too smug and his smile a bit too wide, but that was it. An unassuming man wearing a white button-down, what was left of his hair combed back, a thick gold chain resting over his shirt.

“No priors,” Kravitz confirmed as I turned the page to his non-existent record. “I put a call into the Greensboro PD, they’ll get back to me if they find anything of note. Doctor Strong, however, did find something interesting.” He reached over to turn another page.

It was a close up photo of Koppenhaver’s ruined chest. It had been washed clean, the wound still a gruesome cavern that I didn’t want to look at too long. But that wasn’t the interesting thing Kravitz was talking about. “Is that a burn scar?” I asked him, tracing the edges of the wound where a webbing of scar tissue radiated outwards.

“Indeed it is, and these,” he reached out and tapped the two smoother bits of the scar, both ovals, “are fingers.”

“Somebody burned a handprint into our murder victim?” Violet asked as she walked over, looking over my shoulder to the file.

Kravitz nodded. “Doctor Strong says it’s older, about three years.”

“Hell, first burned, then mauled, this is one unlucky bastard.” I flicked the photo against my hand. “Do we know what did it, Fire Mage, Ifrit?”

“No idea,” Kravitz answered, reaching over to grab another file from his desk, “Donald never even went to a hospital to get treated. There were no charges filed.”

I frowned, it was never good when someone didn’t step forward in assault cases. It meant that either they were ashamed, or they were hiding something.

“So I did a little digging,” Kravitz continued, “and found this.” He handed me the new file.

There was a booking picture of a teenage girl, her fiery red hair falling in waves past her round face. She looked younger than her file said she was, but there was a defiant gleam in her eyes as she glared up at me. “Bryni Hugh,” I read aloud.

Violet walked past me to her desk, typing in the name and pulling up personal information.

“Also known as Pyra,” Kravitz said. “Fire mage, 23, she works as a performer at Unveiled, the club in the industrial district. She has two priors, one for arson when she was a teen, which isn’t that unusual for a fire mage coming into her powers. The second, however, is for assault. Apparently, our little fire mage is a bit – forceful when it comes down to shooting down unwelcome advances.”

I flipped the page over to her record. “She gave a guy a similar burn mark because he was hitting on her.”

“And he’s not the only one,” Violet said from where she sat, “a Christopher Harris was brought into the hospital eighteen months ago with a similar burn, but he refused to press charges.”

“So we have a girl who likes to hurt men that come on a little too strong. Maybe that’s what happened with Koppenhaver last night?” I asked Violet. “Or she could just be out seeking revenge for whatever he did to her.”

“She’s performing tonight.” Violet pointed to the website of Unveiled she had open on her screen, the name Pyra written in dancing flames across the top. “We should definitely go and ask her some questions.”

“You should,” Kravitz said, sounding impossibly smug, “did I mention her brother’s a werewolf?”

Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 2)

wolf_teeth_by_vilebedeva-d5g2dsz
Wolf Teeth by ViLebedeva on Deviantart

Are you ready for part 2? If you’re thinking right now: what is that crazy girl talking about now? Well, I started writing a longer story this time {over 4500 words now!} that I’ll be sharing with you {and writing… shh…} in segments. So last week I posted part 1, here is part 2!

 

It’s always difficult to see one of the big black bags being zipped up. There is something final about it, more so than seeing the blood on the street or the open, unseeing eyes of the victim. The soft sound of the zipper drives home, more than anything else, that we were too late, that this person could no longer be saved.

I looked away as they loaded the body of Donald Koppenhaver onto the stretcher and into the ambulance.

“I’m taking him back to the lab. I’ll do a full tox screen and see if I can find out anything more about our wolves,” the ME said as she sidled up beside me, still taking notes on her clipboard. “I’ll let you know as soon as I find something.”

I nodded, “Thanks, Layla.”

She clipped her pen on the board and nudged me in the side with it. “Keep an eye on our girl, yeah?” She nodded towards where Violet was standing, still sipping her sugary drink.

“I always do,” I promised.

Layla winked at me and walked towards the ambulance. Not for the first time I thought about how well Layla and Violet seemed to fit. Layla’s quiet confidence seemed to calm Violet down a bit, while Violet’s enthusiasm and bubbly personality always seemed to make the frown lines of the always-shielding empath a little softer. They both loved the same music and going out to dance. I once caught them in a pretty heated discussion which Captain was better, Kirk or Picard. They were good together. Maybe when this was all over it was time for some serious matchmaking.

First, we had a case to solve. I walked over to Grey and beckoned Feldt over from where he was still standing by the yellow tape. “The killers are definitely ‘wolf,” I started as both of the werewolves stood in front of me, “any of you recognise the scent?”

Feldt shook his head.

“I don’t know them,” Grey said, his blue eyes taking in the ‘scene. “There is something weird about it.” He took a moment to collect his thoughts. Grey hadn’t been a werewolf for very long yet, I knew, being bitten by a Feral just a few years ago when he was still living in Germany. It sometimes took a moment for him to translate the wolf’s instinct to human language. “They smell like their related, but not. With family, you smell of your own person first, the scents that make up who you are. The scent of family is mixed in there, but subtle, like a perfume. But this -.” He drifted off and scented the air again. “They smell of family first, with only a few individual scents that compliment each other, but don’t overlap. Like two sides of the same coin.”

“And you’ve never encountered that before?” I prompted when he stopped speaking.

“No. He’s right,” Feldt said, “it’s weird.”

I thought back for a moment. “Could it be another witch/wolf combo, like the one in Chicago last year?” A witch had gone more crazy than usual and had charmed a werewolf into being her familiar. They went on a killing spree, cutting out hearts and consuming them to gain more power. It took weeks before they were finally stopped.

“There is no scent of magic,” Grey started as if he knew what I was thinking, “and they are definitely both ‘wolf.”

Weird. There was something off about this case. The emotions, the human and werewolf team that killed Koppenhaver, nothing added up. “Alright,” I told the two ‘wolves, “you know the drill when we’re sure we have a ‘wolf killer. Contact your Alpha’s, describe the scents, ask them if they know who might have done this, if someone has been acting strange lately, yada yada. Maybe we’ll catch a break and they’ll have some more information.”

Grey raised an eyebrow and Feldt snorted, turning it into a cough. Yeah, I didn’t believe me either.

“Harewood forest is a block away.” Grey gestured towards the end of the street. “They might have run there and hid. Ian and I will check it out.”

“Okay, we’ll go back to the precinct and see what Kravitz has for us.” I turned to Feldt. “Call your Alpha first, then try to keep the riff-raff from doing something stupid, alright?” I gestured towards the yellow line that was already gathering quite a crowd, despite the early hour and the quiet neighbourhood. Feldt nodded and hurried off.

Bent was a small neighbourhood on the edge of the city of Sweetlake City. With Benthome Lake on their left and the rest almost surrounded by Harewood Forest, they were pretty cut off from the rest of the city, almost a small village on their own. Bent was mostly one main road with free-standing houses lining the street. They had their own elementary school and a small centre with locally-owned shops and a bar. Bent was one of those neighbourhoods where everybody knew everybody, and a crime like this was sure to leave people scared.

It didn’t help that Bent was the neighbourhood with the most Believers of Sweetlake City. Even though it was small, the main road held no less that three churches. Two of those were known for preaching that ‘the Creatures’, as they loved to call the non-humans, who now outnumbered us humans two to one, were a ‘plague sent from God as punishment for our sins’. Luckily it wasn’t a popular opinion, and most Believers accepted the races that we a hundred years ago thought only belonged in fairy tales, as just another of God’s Children. But small communities like Bent, that were partially isolated, tended to draw together the humans that were set in their ways and their beliefs. They weren’t outright specist, always friendly and ready to lend a helping hand, but non-humans who moved to Bent never settled there long. Which was why it was also home to most of the Hunters that resided in Sweetlake City, I though as I spotted one of my least favourite people standing by the yellow tape line.

William Carver was in his forties, ex-military, and looked like he could take on a ‘wolf with his bare hands. And he had, while still stationed in Russia for the Winter Wars. He was bald, hiding his cold blue eyes behind a pair of sunglasses even though it really wasn’t that bright. He was also decked out in full combat gear, as if looking for a fight.

“What are you doing here, Carver?” I asked as I made my way over to him.

He shrugged. “One of my guys is on the neighbourhood watch, said they found a body this morning, pretty torn up. Sounds like ‘wolf.”

I looked over to where one of the deputies was interviewing a guy dressed in the same combat gear as Carver was. Acid and apples, so much for hoping the Hunters wouldn’t get involved.

When the Veil fell about a hundred years ago and the world was flooded with magic and refugees from another realm, humanity at first didn’t take it very well. All around the world, countries closed their borders, needing time to adjust to a host of different species and the Awakening of once human mages coming into power. Wars broke out over land and religion, rights and magical properties. Protests over the treatment of these new species and of the humans that were now outnumbered and desperately tried to cling to what they had.

After the chaos settled and people found their place in this new world, new laws were made, factions were formed. The Humans Uniting against Numinous Threats, or Hunters for short were one of these new factions, a group of humans trained to hunt and kill these new species, but only if they were found ‘uncontainable and dangerous to mankind’. Starting out as a paramilitary group in the ‘thirties, their political lobby saw them absorbed into law enforcement under the name HPA, the Human Protection Agency. But the name Hunters, and their close-mindedness stuck. I’d really hoped I could keep them out of this one.

“And why are you talking to my witnesses?” I asked.

“He texted me, I didn’t contact him,” Carver said like it wasn’t a huge breach of protocol.

I gritted my teeth, Hunters always got on my nerves with their superiority complex and barely concealed hatred, but Carver somehow always managed to get under my skin within seconds.

“It’s not your case, Carver.” I turned to walk away from him.

“Not yet, but you better hope no more bodies show up. And otherwise, call me, and we’ll handle it.”

I faced him again, crossing my arms over my chest. “Like you handled the Lito case last month?” I asked, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Carver shrugged again. “That was unfortunate, but it was a clean shooting. He came right at Korinek, ready to tear his throat out.”

“He was a seventeen-year-old boy and probably scared out of his mind!”

“Like I said: unfortunate. But sometimes these beasts are so far gone there’s nothing you can do to save them.”

I didn’t miss the glare he send to Feldt when he said that. I wanted to punch him. My hands were already clenched into fists, but I couldn’t, not without maybe losing my case. Which would mean that Carver was one step closer to getting it. No way in the nine hells. “Keep yourself and your guard dogs away from this case, Carver.” I all but growled at him.

He smiled at me, the bastard. “For now,” he agreed almost pleasantly, “but trust me, an attack this vicious, more bodies are gonna show up before the week is out. You’ve got a Feral on your hands and you know as well as I do there is only one way of dealing with those.”

I did know. Once a werewolf went Feral there was nothing that could save them. But I also knew there was more to this case than a simple Feral ‘wolf. I just needed to figure out what the hell was going on. And do it before the Hunters could swoop in with their special brand of justice and kill two more werewolves.

 

So that’s it for this week, but hang on, this story is far from over! See you next week for part 3!

Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 1)

crime-tape
Photo by Scott Olson, Getty Images

It’s Friday already? Time flies when you’re having {a much needed and well deserved} vacation. Last week I talked about writing a larger story, and I’m still working on it! It’s becoming more of a monster than I thought {introduction and first scene and I’m over 2500 words. Gasp!} so I decided to post it in pieces. So without further ado, welcome to the first part of ‘Of Wolf and Man, a Sweetlake mystery’…

The mage took off down the dark alley. Apparently the meaning of the term ‘freeze’ was lost to this guy. Then again, I guess that if you’re a homicidal maniac who killed four people with dark magic you’re not going to be intimidated by a puny human cop. That’s alright, he wouldn’t be the first Dark Sorcerer™ I’d put behind bars.

I gave chase, following his fluttering deep-purple robes through the meandrous alleyways. He veered off to the right and I followed, barely able to throw myself backwards when a nasty looking spell exploded into a shower of purple sparks on the wall opposite of me, right where I’d been a moment before. It sizzled and popped as a portion of the wall was eaten away. The guy didn’t even look back, just kept running. Alright then.

“This is Harper, I’ve got eyes on the suspect,” I spoke into my enchanted headset. “He’s heading towards Greenstreet. Be careful, he’s slinging spells.”

“Understood,” Detective Grey’s gruff voice answered.

“You be careful too, T.J.” My partner Violet warned.

I grinned even though they couldn’t see it. “Aren’t I always?” The answering huff of laughter could have been from any of them, really. The mage made a hard right into a different alley and I pulled my gun as I picked up speed.

“Last chance, Deoradhan,” I yelled as I caught sight of him again, long robes flapping dramatically. “Stop, or I’ll be forced to open fire.” Instead of stopping he flung another spell at me. It went wide and sent a dumpster flying. I aimed at a wall on his left and released a warning shot.

Deoradhan ducked and flinched, but kept running.

Fine, the hard way then. The next shot I aimed for his legs, hoping to take him down. The bullet ricocheted off of an invisible forcefield around the mage and embedded itself into the brick wall. Acid and apples, the bastard was shielding. I could keep firing, hoping to wear him out by forcing him to expend his magic, but who knew where the bullets would ricochet to. No, I’d have better luck tackling him to bring him down physically. Usually when mages shield for high-velocity projectiles they can’t withstand the slow-moving mass of a humanoid body barreling through. Besides, between the shield and the spells, he was losing energy already. He was slowing down.

Holstering my gun, I sped up, making sure I was almost on him before I reached towards his collar. I’d hoped to drag him down, or at least introduce his face to a wall, but he ducked out of the way just before I could grab him. My hand tingled from where it had reached through his shields. We rounded another corner, the mage staggering as he took the corner too wide. I took a sprint and jumped the guy, working him towards the ground. We hit the floor with a thud, forcing the air out of his lungs. I sat up on his legs and grabbed his left wrist, reaching for my ‘cuffs with my right. “Myrrdin Deoradhan, you’re under arrest for the murders of Jane Porter, Sage Wintergreen, Drayce Andvari and Eirlys Deoradhan,” I clicked the first ‘cuff around his wrist, “you have the right –“

I didn’t get any further. He reached for something around his neck. I made a desperate grab for his arm but was too slow. A wall of force slammed into my chest and sent me flying through the dark alley. My breath was punched out of me and my head hit the ground. Hard. Everything went dark and blurry for a moment.

When I snapped back to reality Deoradhan was standing over me, wand raised and aimed at my head. He looked intimidating against the dark sky, his robed form backlit by the streetlights. My heart skipped a beat as I realised that this was it, I wasn’t going to make it out of this one. He never said a word, just grinned like the psycho he was and channelled his magic through the wand, the tip glowing a sickish green hue. The wand was too close to my face, I couldn’t duck out of the way and I knew that as soon as I moved, he’d let the spell fly that would undoubtedly melt my face off.

I refused to beg.

In fact, I refused to speak at all. This was a maniac that murdered four people, one of them his own mother. He cocked his eyebrow at me, as if daring me to say anything. I glared up at him, pressing my lips into a thin line. Nothing I said or did was going to stop him. We stared at each other for a long moment. His grin widened and he shrugged with one shoulder as if to say that it didn’t matter to him if I talked or not. That killing me didn’t matter to him.

I got ready to move, whether to try and sweep his feet out from under him when he was distracted or whether to at least try and roll out of the way, I didn’t know. But I wouldn’t just lay down and die. He opened his mouth to start to spell and I started rising up to do something when a dark form jumped Deoradhan, dragging him away from me.

There was a sickening crack of bone breaking followed by a cut off human scream, probably Deoradhan. I got to my feet, the world swaying underneath me for a moment, and looked over to see Deoradhan on his back on the ground, a huge grey wolf sitting on his chest, teeth at his throat.

The mage was begging now, “No, no, no, please don’t let that thing bite me. I don’t wanna die!” He cut off with a choked sound, the wolf, well, werewolf really, putting a bit more pressure, but not biting down.

I staggered over to the pair and dropped to my knees beside them. “Like I said,” I started, yanking off his amulets when the ‘wolf moved out of my way. He sat back on his haunches on the mage’s chest, his tail thumping twice. “Myrddin Deoradhan, you’re under arrest.”

The rest of the arrest went smoothly. The ‘wolf moved out of the way and helped me roll Deoradhan over to his stomach. I cuffed him and took some time removing anything that looked remotely magical to me. I staggered over to the wall and sat back to wait until the other officers arrived. The ‘wolf climbed on the mage’s back again and sat back down, growling low in his throat every time he so much as twitched.

“Hey,” I told the ‘wolf, otherwise known as Detective Wilder Grey, “thanks for the save.”

He thumped his tail twice again, tongue lolling out of his mouth. It still looked weird, this huge, dangerous creature behaving like your average neighbourhood dog. Especially when they were just as intelligent in their wolf form as they were when human. Grey got up, still standing on our perp, and nosed the side of my head, whining softly.

I ran my hand through my hair, wincing as I touched the spot where I hit it on the street. My fingers were covered in blood when I pulled them back. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” I lied, everything was still swaying and I wasn’t sure I could stand up again.

The ‘wolf looked at me, unimpressed.

“I’ll get it checked out,” I told him, knowing he could hear the ambulance sirens in the distance.

Grey huffed out a breath as if to say ‘you’d better’, but sat back down.

I rested my hand on his shoulder for a moment, fingers clenching in his fur. Together we turned our heads towards the sound heavy footfalls approaching. Back-up had arrived.

***

The deputy standing by the yellow tape looked a little green, which was never a good sign near a crime scene, especially since the deputy in question is a werewolf. I was already regretting getting up this morning. “Morning, Feldt,” I greeted him, showing him my badge.

He looked it over for a moment before lifting the yellow tape and gesturing me through. “Morning, ma’am.”

I ducked under it and walked onto the crime scene, stifling another yawn. The showdown with Deoradhan and the following medical attention meant I hadn’t gotten home until around four in the morning. After that, my brother had woken me every two hours, at the doctor’s request of course, to check for a concussion. My poor head wasn’t concussed, but it wasn’t happy either, a splitting headache sitting just behind my eyes. So yeah, this morning was already off to a great start even before I got the call that a mauled body had been found in the Bent neighbourhood.

A man lay in the middle of the street in a large pool of blood, presumably his own. Dressed in slacks and a dress shirt that was once white, but was now soaked through with crimson. Spray tan and too much gold jewellery, I noted. Balding and what might have a been a bit of a pudge if his guts weren’t currently outside of his body. Most of his torso looked like it had been worked over with a meat grinder, which usually meant one thing: the killer was not human.

“You look like crap, Harper,” Detective Ian Andrews greeted me from where he was standing a few feet from the victim. He sipped from a Styrofoam cup which smelled like delicious, heavenly coffee.

Dammit, I should have stopped for coffee. “Not all of us can look like a spry 50 year old after chasing down a spree killer through dark alleys at three in the morning,” I told him, grinning.

“The secret is yoga and caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine.” He took another sip. “How are you holding up?” he asked, resting his hand on my arm for a moment.

“I’m fine.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“A bit shaken up,” I admitted, “but I’ll be fine. Your partner got to me in time.”

“It’s never easy looking down a barrel of a gun, or in this case, the tip of a wand. We’ve all been there. But you’re still here, that’s what’s important.”

I clapped him on the shoulder. “So, what have we got?”

He accepted my not-so-subtle change of subject and dug his notepad out of his pocket. “According to the ID and wallet our killer so helpfully left behind, victim’s name is Donald Koppenhaver, 52 years old. Kravitz is working on his background back at the precinct.”

I nodded and walked closer to the body, being mindful of where I put my feet. “Do we know what did all this – ?”

“Carnage?” My partner, Violet Bluebell, said from where she sat crouched next to the medical examiner. She was dressed in a dark pink suit today, the purple silk shirt the same colour as the tips of her short curls. Most human professionals wouldn’t be caught dead wearing an outfit like that, but somehow pixies always seem to pull it off flawlessly. Violet once told me the colours remind them of the flower-petal clothes pixies wears in their small form.

The medical examiner was gently pushing the vic’s chin back, exposing the ragged bite marks to his throat. “We think werewolf,” Layla Strong said as she carefully pulled a pluck of grey, bloodied hair away from the neck wound and put it in an evidence bag.

“Definitely werewolf.” Wilder Grey stated from right behind me. I jumped and glared at him, he gave me a shit eating grin in return. Freaking annoying stealthy werewolves. “I can smell it all over the alley. You alright?” he asked me.

“Yeah, thanks. And, you know, thanks again for – saving my life.”

He looked me over, concerned, and nodded.

“The fur is werewolf,” Violet said, “but we also found a long, grey hair and wounds that are consistent with a knife.” She gestured towards the mess that used to be his stomach.

“So either the werewolf shifted halfway through the attack, or we have two attackers,” I finished for her. “But why would he shift? If he already had a knife why not finish it this way? And if he could shift why not attack him as a wolf?” I turned to Detective Grey, “Would a werewolf and a human work together like this, normally?”

He shook his head. “No. We get pretty territorial over our kills. Unless they were both ‘wolves, but then they’d both be in the same shape.”

“Hmm. Anything stand out in particular?” I asked, “Any scent of shift-inhibitors or other drugs?”

“Nothing I can sniff out. A lot of people passed through here, but I don’t get anything out of the ordinary.”

“Alright.” I turned toward Violet where she was still crouched next to the ME. “What are we dealing with, emotionally?” I asked her.

“Desperation,” the pixie, the empath and the werewolf answered simultaneously. Yeah, that wasn’t creepy at all.

“But there’s also -” Violet paused for a moment, as if searching for the right word.

“Aggression,” Layla chimed in.

“Yeah,” Violet agreed, “like, the thrill of the hunt.” She made it sound like a question. “I don’t know, something feels weird about this.” She pushed her aqua and purple curls out of her face with her wrist. “I think I have enough for a reconstruction, though.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, holding her hands cupped towards each other. A tiny flicker of golden light appeared between her hands, blinking in and out of existence a few times before becoming a small ball of energy. The ball grew, the golden light reflecting warmly on her dark skin. She kept going, her face scrunched up in concentration, until it had about the size of a soccer ball. Then she threw her hands up, the energy flying into the air and bursting apart in a shower of golden dust.

Beside me, Grey sneezed. Werewolves always reacted weirdly to magic, especially the pixie kind.

The dust floated down, most of it disappearing before it could hit the ground. The rest seemed to cling to three invisible shapes, forming a wolf and two humanoid figures. The heavier-set man, meant to be Koppenhaver, started running, the wolf and the lithe form of the other human giving chase. Koppenhaver stopped and turned around, his hands help up in front of him. It looked like he was begging for his life. The smaller human jumped forward, grabbing him by the throat and slicing into his stomach. Koppenhaver fell to his knees, the wolf now going for his throat. The wolf rode him down to the floor, head thrashing as it tore off pieces of flesh. The lithe human stepped in again, slashing wildly into the prone form of Koppenhaver. It was brutal to watch, even acted out in sparkly glitter. Koppenhaver twitched one last time, then turned to dust once again, the other two shapes floating away on the wind.

Violet let out a sigh and listed sideways, the ME just able to catch her before she hit the ground.

“Violet!” I rushed over to her. She was still conscious, but she’d overtaxed herself. She’d had gotten just as much sleep as I had, but she’d been practising magic to boot. A glamour to calm Deoradhan down, a spell like this one to track my wild chase after him, anything to catch the guy. We were the same that way.

I turned towards one of the deputies standing around. “We need something sweet, fast.” A moment later a bottle of honeyed elderflower lemonade was pressed into my hand. I helped Violet take a few sips and gave her a couple of moments to steady again. Sugar helped, but she would be tapped out for the rest of the day. “You alright?” I asked her when she could sit up on her own again.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry about that.” She smiled and turned away, running her hand through her hair.

I grimaced at the streak of red blood now running through the turquoise. “Sweetie, gloves.”

She looked at her hand for a moment. “Ah toadstools, this is just not my day.”

Slinging my arm around her shoulder I squeezed her for a moment. “Don’t worry, you did good. We now have a place to start.” Even though the reconstructions weren’t foolproof, magic couldn’t show exactly what had happened, but pixies could feel the emotions and the atmosphere of a place and cast an illusion of what most probably had happened. It wasn’t a smoking gun, but it was a start.

“There is something still off, though. Something I’m missing.” Violet’s hand clenched in her lap in frustration.

“We’ll figure it out. We’ll catch these guys.” And we’d better do it quick, I thought, because if these guys were as aggressive as Violet had shown, there would be more bodies before the week was out.

To be continued…. So tune in next week for part 2! Are you excited yet? {I am!}

Fiction Friday: Human Curiosity

crystal_caves_by_josheiten-d5z8fes
Crystal Caves by JoshEiten on Deviantart

Welcome back! It’s Friday which means it’s storytime! {Yay!} This week’s story is a bit shorter that you’re used to, but I have a good reason for that, I promise. I’ve been working on a longer story {with lots of worldbuilding and plotting, oh my!} which I’m hoping to finish this week. I’m aiming for at least 5000 words, but it will probably be longer.

That said, I didn’t want to leave you guys without a story this week, so I wrote a short, dialogue only, story. It’s a continuation of Human Care, although you don’t necessarily need to read that one first. I saw this prompt on Pinterest and could immediately picture Kel’Jar and Keira having this conversation. As my husband said: That universe only exists to make Keira’s life difficult, doesn’t it? Why yes, yes it does. So enjoy and hopefully next week I’ll have something big for you!

 

“Why? Why didn’t I stay on the ship? I could have just said to the Captain ‘Dammit, Jim, I’m an engineer, not a redshirt!’ But, no! He asked so of course I – “

“Your shirt seems to be more of an Earth-forest green in hue, and the Captain’s name is Crydrask, not Jim.”

“I know, Kel’Jar, it’s a human saying – sort of. Point is, I should be back on the ship, surrounded by my beautiful machines and gizmos but instead I’m on this cold, dark planet, walking into this cold, dark, fakakta cave where we’ll get eaten by the no doubt charming wildlife. All because they found some energy signature in said, cold, dark, fakakta cave that might maybe, perhaps, possibly be electronic. How is this my life?”

“Human-Keira, I would like to join you in acknowledging the difficulties of your life.”

“Wow, you are the worst at this comfort thing. But thanks for trying, I guess.”

“XTO-371 was labelled ‘safe’ before we were sent down. There are no signs of dangerous indigenous species, airborne toxins or other biological hazards. You are simply experiencing a nervous reaction due to the fact that this is your first exploring mission. You will be, as you say, fine.”

“Much better. See, you’re getting the hang of this human-interaction thing! Now, does your scanner say how much further we need to go before we reach this energy – Oh God! Something just brushed my leg!”

“That was most probably an Agnasi, they are similar to your Earth-spider.”

“Spiders don’t usually reach up to my knee, Kel’Jar!”

“True, I meant in the way that they have more limbs than most species. Ten in the case of the Agnasi, but –“

“Not really helping.”

“—they have a really friendly demeanour.”

“Oh God, the creepy alien spiders are going to eat us alive and we’re all gonna diiiieeeee. We should never have walked in here. I wanna go hoooome.”

“Why are you singing?”

“It’s a human fear response. It happens sometimes.”

“Studies on human behaviour denote three human responses to fear: fight, flight and freeze. Singing is not mentioned.”

“Well, no. It’s more like we’re trying not to give in to the fight-or-flight thing by singing. I guess.”

“Fascinating.”

“Yeah, we’re astonishing creatures. Oh, hey! I found the thingamabob. Could you give me some more light? Thanks. Cool, it seems to be giving off sound on a supersonic frequency. I wonder why?”

“Perhaps it is a distress signal.”

“Could be, but we haven’t found any other technology, or a spaceship. Ooh, I found the button that turns it off, let’s see what happens.”

“Are you certain that is wise?”

“Too late. Alright, nothing flashy happened, nothing exploded, no sudden death. Which is good. Blinking lights, which might be less good. Wait. Do you hear that, what is that?”

“It would appear we have angered the Agnasi by turning off the device. I would advise you to run!”

“I thought you said they have a ‘friendly demeanour’!”

“I was incorrect. Caelestis, this is Lieutenant Kel’Jar requesting immediate extraction from this location. We are being pursued, I repeat, we are being pursued.”

“Nothing will happen, he says, you’ll be fine, he says!”

“It was a statement made taking only the parameters currently available to me in consideration.”

“Hahaha! Did you see that one hit the rocks? I totally got it!”

“Is laughing another human not-fear response?”

“Yeah, but how about we run now and study human physiology later, okay?”

“They seem to be gaining on us.”

“I swear, Kel’Jar, if I get eaten I will haunt you for– Oof!”

“Welcome back aboard, Lieutenant, Keira. Were you able to figure out the energy signature?”

“It would seem, Captain, that the device emitted a high-frequency sound, which kept the local Agnasi population docile. When Human-Keira shut down the device, they turned hostile.”

“I see.”

“Yeah – I guess I’m not really cut out for the adventuring thing. Sorry, Captain, guess I shouldn’t have pushed the glowy button.”

“Human curiosity. Something we could use on our next mission. So, get some rest and wash up. We’ll arrive at EXO-31 in 23 standard hours.”

“When you say human curiosity?”

“Yes, Keira, that means you too.”

“But we almost got eaten by not-spiders and it was my fault!”

“And you survived, this time.”

Oy Gevalt.

“Who knows, you might start to like this adventuring thing.”

Fiction Friday: Salvation

 

Pieterskerk
Pieterskerk in Leiden, the Netherlands

 Hi and welcome to another Fiction Friday! Phew I had a hard time writing this one. I’d been without inspiration the entire week and when I finally knew what I wanted to write about, the words ran away from me at Mach 5 speed. Seriously, it took me almost five hours to get these little-over-1000 words on paper. I bow in shame and defeat. But, I’m also proud of myself because I eventually did do it {yay for discipline!} and after some serious tweaking {so much tweaking} it’s something I’m actually proud of.

So I really had no idea what to write this week, so I took a page out of my friend Chantal‘s book {who took it out of Chuck Wendig’s book, but shh} and went to Flickr to browse through the recently added photos. I found one of a beautiful church in Barcelona, which reminded me that I had a character somewhere for my big worldbuiding project who has a close bond with churches and could use a little backstory. I looked up a church a little closer to home, and wrote the story of my vampire priest! So are you ready? Here we go!

 

Joseph paused in front of the huge Gothic church. The high arched windows cast a warm glow onto the cobblestone streets. Heavy red doors stood open and inviting. He should just walk in. Finally find the courage to walk into the warm interior and let the wrath of God burn him to cinders. At least, that’s what they said happened to monsters who tried to enter His house. And that’s what he was now, wasn’t he?
A monster.
He was so tired. Tired of roaming, standing in front of another church and trying to convince himself to just end it. Tired of the heartache of leaving his wife and family behind, even though he knew he was protecting them. He could never go home. Not like this.
When he returned from the War to End All Wars, changed, he knew that he would be a danger to his own family. He hadn’t even said goodbye, it was better if they thought he died on that cursed battlefield. In a way he had, bleeding out in the muddied trenches after that thing had torn out his throat and fed him the life from its veins. Only he hadn’t stayed dead.
He’d stowed away on the first boat to the Americas, hoping an ocean between them would keep them safe from the monster he’d become. For weeks he had wandered the land, shying away from the sun when it started to burn. Praying for salvation to a God he knew would no longer hear him.
Every morning when dawn broke, he stood in the shadows, watching God’s light fill the streets but knowing he would never feel its warmth again. He wondered if the stories were true, that if he stepped out of the shadows he would burn away, his ashes travelling up to Heaven as his soul would descend to Hell. At night he would walk through towns and cities, always finding himself in front of a church, remembering the Sundays spent with his family in the wooden benches, heads bowed in prayer. And every night wondering if this was the night where he would finally step inside. Through it all the hunger pulsed within him, a beat that was impossible to ignore.
“Hello,” a voice sounded beside him. He turned to see a man in priest robes standing next to him. “You’ve been standing here a while now, would you like to come in?”
“I don’t think that would be such a good idea, Father.”
“You’re from Britain?” the priest asked, “You’ve fought in the war?”
He could only nod in answer. The priest gestured to a small bench facing the cathedral and they both sat in silence for a moment.
“We have a lot of folk here who fought for their country,” the priest began. “Folk who had some trouble getting back on their feet after. War changes people, yes, but -”
“War made me a monster,” Joseph interrupted.
The priest waited for a moment, but the man said nothing more. “What’s your name, son?”
“Joseph Brennan, Father.” The hunger clawed at him now. This was the first time in weeks that somebody had been this close to him. He could almost smell it, the coppery warmth that could be his if only he tore open the priest. Like he had been torn open. He felt his new fangs lengthen at the thought alone. He knew his eyes must be burning red now, like his maker’s had been.
“Joseph,” the priest started, completely unaware of the struggle happening next to him, “there are things war forces men to do that might make it seem like God has abandoned them. But He’s still here, and He’s still listening. What you have gone through hasn’t made you a monster, it-”
“Hasn’t it?” Joseph demanded, baring his fangs at the man sitting next to him. “All I can think about now is how your blood would taste on my tongue. The thrill it would give to see the life leave your eyes as I drain you dry. Tell me, Father, how am I not a monster?”
The priest regarded him for a moment, seemingly unfazed. “I see. Why did you come here, Joseph? What is it that you’re looking for?”
“Peace,” he answered, a burning tear rolling down his cheek, “for this pain to finally end.”
The priest lay a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. “God has heard your prayers and send you here. You are not the first Night’s Child we have had here. Tell me, Joseph, have you given in to the hunger? Have you drunk blood?” The priest stood and started towards the doors, guiding Joseph along.
“Not yet, but I don’t know how much longer I can fight it,” he admitted.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well,” the priest quoted, “Your soul is not yet darkened, my son, you must fight temptation each and every day. You will have to become an instrument of God. It will not be easy, but God knows you have the strength, for He has sent you to us.”
They stood in front of the heavy wooden doors now, the interior of the church lit by warm candlelight. White pillars lined the path towards the ornate choir screen at the back of the church. A spiral staircase wrapped around one of the pillars on the right, leading to a wooden pulpit that looked antique. A huge bronze chandelier hung from the ceiling, the candles upon it casting golden light upon the wooden pews. “We will all help you, Joseph. But above all, you must wish to be saved. It is not too late to save your soul, and perhaps along the way, save the souls of others,” The priest gestured inside. “Will you come in?”
Joseph stood for a moment, frozen in indecision. He regarded the man next to him, who wasn’t afraid of what he had become, of what he could be. Who instead told him that there was hope, that there was a way to save himself. He had to put his trust in this man, and in God, but could he do that, when he couldn’t even trust himself?
Closing his eyes he called up images of his wife, singing while she cooked, of his brothers laughing in the pub, of his mother hanging up the laundry. He owed it to them to try. He squared his shoulders and opened his eyes, looking inside this beautiful house of God, and with apprehension, but without fear, he stepped over the threshold.

So that’s it for this week! Next week will be a bit lighter again, I promise. After this one the writing came a bit more naturally as well, which is good! As a final gift: look at this beautiful choir screen in the same Pieterskerk (Peterschurch)!

Choir screen in the Pieterskerk, the Netherlands

Fiction Friday: the Fairy Ring

Fairy Ring
Compass by Coyhand on Flickr

It’s Friday and you know what this means: time for another story! I’ve been diving into Dark Fantasy for the last couple of weeks, as you might have noticed in Siren Song… But, I have good reason, I swear, I’m entering another writing competition! {Gasp! So excited!} The where and what I want to keep to myself a little while longer, but I can share this with you guys: this is the story that didn’t make the cut.

Like last time I entered a story competition, I wrote two stories {Noor and Death’s Diner, which won!} to see what would work best. This time I did the same. I really like this one but it didn’t quite get the feel I wanted… So, I get to share this one with you guys! {yay!} Enjoy and let me know what you think!

“Malia?” Tami called as she ran through the rain-slick streets of Haven, “Come on, sweetie, this isn’t funny anymore.” If Mother found out she had lost her little sister she was done for. “Malia!” She called again, rounding another corner. She passed a few people but they paid her no heed; in Haven people only cared about their own troubles.
Rain was still pouring down, turning the drab grey stones of the streets and homes even darker. A spot of colour caught her eye on the end of a dark alleyway. Heart in her throat, she walked towards it. There, between the filth, resting against the Wall that kept the city safe, lay Ophelia, her sister’s doll. Gently, Tami picked her up and cradled the doll in her hands. Mother had made that doll, stealing scraps of fancy fabric whenever she made dresses for the rich women in the White District. She ran her thumb over the intricate embroidery on the doll’s wings. Something must have happened. Malia would never go anywhere without Ophelia.
Terror caught her by the throat and Tami clutched the small rag doll to her chest. “Malia!” she called out frantically, “please just come out, I promise I’m not mad. Malia, please!”
“I’m right here, silly,” a voice sounded right behind her, making her jump. When she turned Malia was standing there, soaking wet and covered in mud. A big smile on her round face.
Tami picked her up and held her tight. “Oh, sweetie, thank Abeona, you’re okay. I’ve been looking all over, you had me so worried!” She set her little sister down and looked her over. Other than a few small scrapes she seemed to be fine. “Are you hurt?” she couldn’t help but ask, “did anyone hurt you?”
Malia shook her head no. “I’m fine,” the small girl answered, still smiling.
“Where have you been? You’ve been gone for five hours.”
“I was in the forest,” she said like it was nothing, pointing towards the thick Wall.
Tami’s heart pounded in her chest. There was a reason Haven was surrounded by walls of stone. The world outside the Wall was no longer safe for anyone to travel, especially not a child. “The forest, but how?” she grabbed Malia by the shoulders, “You mustn’t go there, the forest is dangerous.”
“No it’s not,” the younger stated with absolute certainty, “it’s pretty and I made new friends. They want to meet you, Tami, you have to come!” She pulled away from her sister and ran towards one of the nearby buildings. “Come on!”
“What friends?”
“The pixies. I found them, real pixies,” Malia bounced on her feet, her voice filled with excitement, “they’re sparkly and bright and can do real magic. You have to come and see, Tami, please, please, please.”
Before Tami could answer, her sister wedged herself between the building and the Wall and disappeared from sight. Tami hurried after her, it was a tight fit, but she managed to get to where her sister had found a hole in the wall. She’d actually been outside, Tami realised, believing before that her sister was spinning tales out of boredom. Malia had been to the forest and back again, safe. They had heard so many tales of the outside that everyone believed life within the Wall was the only way to survive. Could it be that the forest was not as dangerous as they thought? If what Malia was saying is true, they could finally leave this rat-infested city and test their luck elsewhere.
A head appeared through the whole in the wall. “Come on, I promise the woods are not scary,” her sister beckoned.
Tami stayed where she was for a moment, undecided, until an annoyed sounding “Tami,” floated through the hole. She took a fortifying breath and ducked through the hole towards the outside world.

The forest was beautiful, Tami had to admit as they walked through the darkening woods. There were colourful flowers and vines everywhere and a little while back she’d even seen a deer. She’d never known how much cleaner the world could smell. The sweet scent of flowers and the fresh scent of wet leaves filled her nose. Walking here amongst all this life she couldn’t imagine ever going back to the gloomy and drab city. She laughed as her sister skipped ahead, humming along a happy tune with the birds’ songs. This, she thought, this is what freedom feels like.
As they walked deeper into the forest, their surroundings seemed to be getting darker. No, she thought, everything was darker. Even the sky, but that couldn’t be right, could it? When they left it hadn’t even been close to supper. A sudden night had fallen over the woods and leached them of their vibrancy. All around was black and green, the bright colours from before engulfed in darkness.
Tami looked behind her, only to see the path obscured by a low-hanging mist. Fear started creeping up her spine. She had no idea where she was, no idea how to get home from here. Malia was still skipping ahead, her humming now eerie in the sudden silence. “Malia, sweetie,” she tried, “it’s getting dark, we have to turn back.”
“Don’t be silly,” her sister called back, skipping backwards for a moment, “we’re almost there. Besides, the pixies make their own light.” She smiled brightly for a moment before turning back towards the path and continuing on, still humming.
The air was getting colder, the mist now up to Tami’s knees. There were lights in the trees, mushrooms glowing an uncanny green. She’d never seen anything like it and wanted to be amazed, she truly did, but all the lights did was cast ghastly shadows upon the trees. The hairs on her neck stood straight up. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched, the lights on the trees creating faces of shadow, following her every move. Tami itched to grab Malia and run far from this dark and desolate place, but where would she go? There was no more path to follow. She had no choice but to trail her young sister, who didn’t seem fazed by her darkened surroundings and seemed to know exactly where she was going.
There was a light further ahead. Pale blue and shining brighter than the mushrooms that dotted the trees. Perhaps a lantern, Tami hoped, belonging to a traveller that could show them the way out of this cursed forest.
Malia giggled and started running towards it, “It’s them, come on!”
“Malia wait!” Tami called but it was no use. She hurried after the child finding herself suddenly at the edge of a clearing between the trees. The lights were pixies, she saw, actual, real pixies dancing and giggling above a ring of toadstools.
They were beautiful.
Their gossamer wings shone a light blue in the dark sky, tufts of dust trailing behind them. Dresses made of flower petals twirled round and round as they danced to a song only they could hear. Wide eyes and rosy cheeks greeted her as one of the pixies beckoned her forward. Malia was already dancing with them, Tami noticed, spinning within the fairy ring. Tami couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of such wonder. They had found light and hope within these cimmerian woods.
“Dance with me, sister!” Malia called from out of the ring.
Tami took her hand and gently stepped over the circle of toadstools. Music started, slowly at first, the soft tunes of harp and fiddle filling the circle. As soon as the sisters started moving it picked up speed, going faster and faster as they spun about the ring. The pixies flashed by Tami, still giggling. For a moment they seemed spindly and rotten, their wings tattered and torn, their black eyes piercing through her, but when she blinked it was gone.
She was getting dizzy. A feeling of dread crept up her spine as the pixies came ever closer, flashing from rosy to rotten and back again.
“I told you I would get her here,” her sister called out, bringing their spinning to a sudden stop.
Tami stumbled for a moment before regaining her balance. The pixies, if they even were pixies, were surrounding her now there was nowhere she could go. Their black eyes studied her, seemingly amused at her unease. “Malia, we need to go,” she told her sister calmly, not wanting to cause her any fright, “now.”
“Yes, I can get more people for you,” the younger answered an unspoken question and cold settled within Tami’s heart, “Mother will be ever so worried when Tami doesn’t come back.”
Tami’s breathing picked up as her sister turned towards her. Where her eyes were normally a soft brown they were now full black, like the eyes of the creatures around them. Malia smiled brightly, looking a little unhinged. Tami took a step towards her, intending to grab Malia and run, not caring where they ended up, but tiny hands latched on to her, piercing her skin. Panicked, she tried to swat at them but there were too many. One opened its mouth and Tami screamed at the sight of the rows of fangs.
“Malia, please,” she pleaded as it bit down on her shoulder, a cold sensation filling her body. The ground under her feet swayed as her vision swam.
“They only want to play,” Malia told her, her voice reassuring.
“No,” Tami could only whisper as more pixies latched onto her skin.
“Don’t worry, sister,” her sister told her, smile too wide and eyes still pitch black, “they won’t bite.”

So that’s it for this week! I’m so excited {and terrified} for this competition, really guys and gals, this could be life-changing… So, I’ll keep you posted and tune in next week for a new fiction friday!